Sport, Genetics and the `Natural Athlete': The Resurgence of Racial Science

Body and Society 9 (2):75-95 (2003)
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Abstract

This article explores the ethical implications of recent discussions that naturalize the relationship between race, the body and sport within the frame of genetic science. Many suggestions of a racially distributed genetic basis for athletic ability and performance are strategically posited as a resounding critique of the `politically correct' meta-narratives of established sociological and anthropological forms of explanation that emphasize the social and cultural construction of race. I argue that this use of genetic science in order to describe and explain common-sense impressions of racial physiology and sporting ability is founded on erroneous premises of objectivity and disinterest, and inflates the analytical efficacy of scientific truth claims. I suggest that assertions of a value-free science of racial athletic ability reify race as inherited permanent biological characteristics that produce social hierarchies and are more characteristic of a longer history of `racial science'.

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