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Terence Keel on "Christian Thought, Eugenic Belief, Racial Entitlement"

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April 2, 2021 - 12:00pm
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Abstract: The recent insurrection at the Capitol and wave of anti-Asian violence during the COVID19 pandemic is surely a culmination of a long history of racism and white nationalism in the United States. Yet the failure to unilaterally condemn this violence at all levels of government exposes a critical turning point in American politics. Moreover, in the ensuing examinations of these events there has yet to be an account of the role played by religious belief and eugenic ideology in giving coherence to the broader political grievances propelling contemporary white insurrection and its attending racial violence. Drawing on his book Divine Variations, Professor Terence Keel (UCLA) discusses the relationship between Christianity, eugenics, and political entitlement that underwrites the racism of these unprecedented times.

About the Speaker: Terence Keel is an Associate Professor with a split appointment in the Department of African American Studies, and the UCLA Institute for Society and Genetics. He is also the Founding Director of the Lab for Biocritical Studies and currently serves as Associate Director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies. Keel has written extensively about race, religion, law, and modern science. His widely acclaimed first book, Divine Variations explains how religion helped produce scientific racism. Keel argues that modern biology has undergone an uneven process of secularization, leaving contemporary scientific theories of race haunted by a religious past that cannot be fully transcended.

Keel is currently writing a second book on the American medical examiner system that details how forensic pathology, law enforcement, and autopsy science suffer from a climate of social and ethical nihilism that produce practices of state violence and biomedical racism that target communities of color and erase police accountability for death while under custody. Keel is also currently a co-editor of the forthcoming book Critical Approaches to Science and Religion, with Myrna Perez-Sheldon and Ahmed Ragab. Bringing together scholars from the humanities, law, biology, and the social sciences, this book features a new generation of scholars offering insights into the changing relations between science, religion, critical race theory and social justice. Keel has a B.A. in Theology from Xavier University of Louisiana, a M.T.S. from Harvard Divinity School, and a Ph.D. from Harvard University. He is currently a Research Fellow at the UCLA Luskin Center for History and Policy for his collaborative work on the American medical examiner system.

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