Message posted on 30/11/2022

CfP The politics, epistemologies and ethics of naming populations in the life sciences

                Dear colleagues,

please find enclosed our call for workshop papers and articles "Mere 
labels, racial concepts, or scientific methods? The politics,
epistemologies and ethics of naming populations in the life sciences
and beyond".
The Workshop will take part in Freiburg on 30th/31st March 2023. 
Deadline for abstracts is 6 January 2023.

We would be grateful if you could forward the call to those colleagues 
who might be interested in the topic.

Best regards,

Mihai, Veronika and Nils


Call for Workshop Papers & Articles

Mere labels, racial concepts, or scientific methods? The politics, 
epistemologies and ethics of naming populations in the life sciences and 

The life sciences often think of human biological diversity in terms of 
differences and similarities between populations rather than between 
individuals. Accordingly, humans are divided into ancestral collectives 
whose membership is too a large extent unalterable and heritable. This 
transformation of individuals into populations has far reaching 
implications. Various studies have argued that positing such populations 
is hardly distinguishable from assuming the (pre-)existence of human 
races. Especially studies in medical, forensic and populations genetics 
have caused much debate about how far “genetic ancestry” falls back on 
racial concepts and how these involve and foster racism (e.g. Burmeister 
2021; Fuentes, Bolnick & Watkins, 2019; Gannett 2014; Lewis et al. 2022, 
Lipphardt 2019; May 2018; M’charek 2022; Novembre 2022). At our workshop 
we would like to take this discussion further and discuss the role the 
naming of population plays before, during, and after the research process.

Possible questions include, but are not limited to:

• Under what circumstances are names merely (understood as) convenient 
labels and when/how do they introduce taking for granted epistemologies 
(assumptions, concepts, and methodologies)?

• Where can we see differences and continuities between historical and 
present scientific practices regarding the naming and classification of 
populations? How does changing terms shift the life sciences away from 
older conceptualizations? How, for instance, do different labels for the 
same group invoke different scientific meanings and practices?

• How are residual categories or “non-groups” (e.g. admixed populations) 
defined? How are categorical boundaries drawn and maintained? Race 
taxonomies, in this case, serve as a prominent, but by no means the only 
example (Bowker & Star 2000).

• Does a substitution of categories of race by rough geographical, 
national, linguistic, ethnical and religious descriptions (Panofsky and 
Bliss 2017; Byeon et al 2021) make a substantial difference in this 
field, or merely disguise the same problem in a new terminology?

• Is there a beneficial, non-racist use of categories of race in 
research, e.g. in order to address existing health inequalities 
(Ioannidis, Powe, Yancy 2021), or should they be avoided altogether?

• How are both scientific and social actors involved in the politics of 
naming populations? What about their interactions? How do, for instance, 
the self-understanding and status of social groups affect the scientific 
use of certain population names, and vice versa (Reardon 2005; Hacking 
2007; Bourdieu 2018)?

We welcome contributions that outline the scientific concerns, 
negotiations and decisions the naming of populations is subject to, as 
well as the societal repercussion it has. We encourage the submission of 
papers that address the interrelated issues of politics, epistemologies 
and ethics in the use of population labels in life sciences and other 
disciplines broadly related to the questions and themes highlighted 
above. Applicants can submit abstracts (300 words) for papers that deal 
with one or all three aspects (politics, epistemologies, ethics) within 
the focus of this call. Deadline for abstracts is 6 January 2023.

We aim for the publication of the papers in an edited STS volume. 
Therefore, successful applicants should prepare to provide a short paper 
(3000 words) for discussion by 10th March 2023. Papers will be shared 
among all participants before the workshop taking place at the 
University of Freiburg (Germany) on 30th/31st March 2023.

Travel costs from European destinations (or similar) and accommodation 
in Freiburg will be covered for those presenting. If you are intending 
to participate from further away, please contact us soon and we will 
explore if we can contribute to your expenses.


• Deadline for abstracts: 6 January 2023
• Notification of acceptation/rejection: 15 January 2023
• Deadline for short papers: 10 March 2023
• Workshop in Freiburg: 30/31 March 2023
• Deadline for full papers: July 2023
• Review of full paper: ca. September 2023
• Revised manuscript: ca. December 2023
• Publication: ca. February 2024

The workshop is jointly organized by the Freiburg Network on Ethical, 
Legal and Social Aspects of Science and Technology (FELSA) and the 
SoSciBio (Human Diversity in the Life Sciences: Social and Scientific 
Effects of Biological Differentiations) research group.

Please send your abstracts to

Mihai Surdu
Nils Ellebrecht
Veronika Lipphardt


Bourdieu P. 2018. Classification struggles. Lectures at the Collège de 
France (1981-1982). Cambridge, UK, Medford, MA: Polity.

Bowker, G.C., and Susan L.S. 2000. Sorting things out: Classification 
and its consequences. MIT press.

Burmeister, S. 2021. Does the concept of genetic ancestry reinforce 
racism? A commentary on the discourse practice of archaeogenetics. 
TATuP-Zeitschrift für Technikfolgenabschätzung in Theorie und 
Praxis/Journal for Technology Assessment in Theory and Practice, 30(2): 

Byeon Y.J.J. et al. Evolving use of ancestry, ethnicity, and race in 
genetics research-A survey spanning seven decades. Am J Hum Genet. 2021; 
108: 2215–23. doi: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2021.10.008.

Fuentes, A., Bolnick, D.A. and Watkins, R. 2019. Interpreting and 
communicating genetic variation in 2019: A conversation on race. 
Evolutionary Anthropology 28(3): 109-111.

Gannett, L. 2014. Biogeographical ancestry and race. Studies in History 
and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of 
Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 47: 173-184.

Ioannidis, J.P., Powe, N.R. and Yancy, C. 2021. Recalibrating the use of 
race in medical research. Jama, 325(7): 623-624.

Lewis, A.C.F. et al. 2022. Getting genetic ancestry right for science 
and society. We must embrace a multidimensional, continuous view of 
ancestry and move away from continental ancestry categories, Science 
376, 250-252.

Lipphardt, V., 2019. Über den allzu sorglosen Umgang mit population 
labels und sampling schemes. NTM Zeitschrift für Geschichte der 
Wissenschaften, Technik und Medizin, 27(2): 167-177.

M’charek, A., 2022. Race and sameness: on the limits of beyond race and 
the art of staying with the trouble." Comparative Migration Studies 10, 
no. 1 (2022): 1-16.

Novembre, J., 2022. The background and legacy of Lewontin's 
apportionment of human genetic diversity. Philosophical Transactions of 
the Royal Society B, 377(1852), p.20200406

Panofsky, A. and Bliss, C.2017, Ambiguity and scientific authority: 
population classification in genomic science. American Sociological 
Review 82/1, 59-87.

Reardon, J. 2005 Race to the Finish: Identity and Governance in an Age 
of Genomics, Princeton University Press.

Dr. Nils Ellebrecht
Department of Sociology / Centre for Security and Society
Rempartstraße 15
D-79085 Freiburg im Breisgau

Office: Belfortstr. 16, 1. OG, Room 01008

Tel: +49 761 203 9394
Fax: +49 761 203 3493
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