Get access

Data, Code, and Discourses of Difference in Genomics


Peter A. Chow-White; e-mail:


When James Watson suggested that Africans are less intelligent than Whites in October 2007, he was quickly called “stupid” and “irrational” by the international media. In this article, I argue that this characterization misses the structural elements at play and the larger social transformations where shifting discursive formations of race are converging in old and new ways with developments and innovations in digital culture and information technologies. This article identifies three discursive frames that characterize race talk in contemporary society, drawing on the work of Bonilla-Silva, Bell, Gilroy, Hall, and Spivak, and explores how they operate in a specific institutional context. Medical biotechnology, like many other enterprises, has been undergoing enormous changes enabled by developments and innovations in computing technologies such as databases and the Internet. As a result, scientific understandings of genetics and race are being recoded in the digital age.