The Course:

Science and Race:
History, Use, and Abuse

What is this thing called “race?”

Scientists agree that many common assumptions about race are wrong—yet the consequences of racism are very real.

This fall, the Penn Museum brings together more than two dozen internationally recognized experts from diverse backgrounds for an in-depth and powerful exploration about race, science, and justice in a free series of five evening classes geared to adults and young adults (14 and above).

The Public Classroom @ Penn Museum: Science and Race: History, Use and Abuse runs non-consecutive Wednesdays, 6:30 to 9:30 pm, beginning September 21 (September 28; October 26; November 9; November 16). Individuals can sign up for one, several, or all sessions. Seating is limited and advance registration is recommended.

For those who can’t attend the program at the Museum, there will be live streaming of the program on the website.

Each Science and Race class features a panel of four to six experts, with questions led by moderators (including from public radio WHYY and African American talk radio WURD). Discussions on race are presented through the lenses of anthropology, biology, genetics, sociology, philosophy, and law. With each session, students engage in collection workshops featuring the Museum’s renowned Samuel Morton collection of more than 1,000 human crania collected from around the world in the 1800s. Reading materials and other online resources are provided, including materials and age-appropriate teaching tools for use with younger children.

The Public Classroom doesn’t end there. Tapping into the class interactions and the assembled University of Pennsylvania and outside experts, Penn’s Camra media program will develop and film an accompanying documentary on Science and Race, designed for middle school audiences and older, and available to all in 2017.

JOIN US as we examine beliefs about race, science, and justice; the origins of race theory; and why it matters today.
(Advance registration is recommended.)

LEARN MORE about Penn’s Public Classroom and how to participate.

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September 21, 2016

Understanding the History of Science and Race

Race is a modern idea. Ancient societies did not segregate people according to physical differences. Some social scientists argue that race is a social construct without biological basis—that is rooted instead in the long history of racial inequalities.

Speakers include

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September 28, 2016

Biomedicine and Race

From molecules to pharmacogenetics, race has made its way into medical practice. Discussions surround how, or if, racial differences contribute to disease susceptibility within biomedical practice.

Speakers include

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October 26, 2016

Genetics and Race

Race has no genetic basis. Yet genes and race remain at the forefront of discussions of the origin of modern human diversity. This session explores how a person’s DNA contributes to their racial makeup.

Speakers include

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November 9, 2016

Geography, Culture, and Race

Where some natural scientists posit that human population differences are geographically patterned and the product of evolutionary process, social scientists have emphasized the historical political, economic, and social relationships that form and transform cultural practices.

Speakers include

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November 16, 2016

Violence and Race

Race is not a scientific concept, yet racism is real—a powerful social idea that gives people differential access to opportunities and resources. In the United States, violence has been racialized, as seen in crime statistics and reinforced by news media.

Speakers include

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Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.

Martin Luther King Jr.