Scientific racism: Histories, legacies and ethics Steve Biko Bioethics Lecture, 12 September 2023

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C Kuljian

Abstract





In 1936, Raymond Dart led the Wits University Expedition to the Kalahari where he used the tools of physical anthropology, including bodily measurements, face masks and comparative anatomy, to promote the ill-fated concept of race typology to understand human evolution. Dart’s successor at the Wits School of Anatomical Sciences, Phillip Tobias, and his colleagues continued these anthropological practices in numerous expeditions to the Kalahari and elsewhere in the 1950s, 60s and 70s, including an excavation of the grave of Cornelius Kok II in Campbell, Northern Cape in 1961. This paper reviews these practices and their contribution to scientific racism in South Africa. The paper also explores the impact that Steve Biko’s life and death had on medical ethics at Wits University in the 1970s, leading to Wits Medical School’s submission to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the decision to hold an Internal Reconciliation Commission (IRC). While the IRC was important, the absence of any review of pre-apartheid and apartheid-era anthropological practices at the Wits School of Anatomical Sciences meant that it was incomplete. This paper concludes by suggesting that there is a need to acknowledge and revisit this painful history of scientific racism to build a greater understanding of history, transparency and ethics for the future.





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Scientific racism: Histories, legacies and ethics Steve Biko Bioethics Lecture, 12 September 2023. (2024). South African Journal of Bioethics and Law, 17(1). https://doi.org/10.7196/sajbl.2024.v17i1.1871
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Author Biography

C Kuljian, Research Associate, Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER) at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

Christa Kuljian is the author of Sanctuary (Jacana 2013), Darwin's Hunch (Jacana 2016) and the forthcoming Our Science, Ourselves (University of Massachusetts Press 2024). Christa is currently a Research Associate at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WiSER) at the University of Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. 

How to Cite

Scientific racism: Histories, legacies and ethics Steve Biko Bioethics Lecture, 12 September 2023. (2024). South African Journal of Bioethics and Law, 17(1). https://doi.org/10.7196/sajbl.2024.v17i1.1871

References

Link to references: https://www.samedical.org/file/2191

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