Ruha Benjamin

ruha_profilepixAssistant Professor of Sociology and African American Studies

Email: ruha@bu.edu
Phone: 617-358-6280

Personal Webpage

 I received my BA in Sociology and Anthropology from Spelman College, MA and PhD in Sociology from UC Berkeley, and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at UCLA’s Center for Society and Genetics. My teaching and research interests include the social studies of science, medicine, and biotechnology; racial and ethnic formations; the sociology of knowledge; gender and biopolitics.

My book, People’s Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier (Stanford University Press 2013), examines the tension between scientific innovation and social equity in the wake of a new “right to stem cell research” codified in the California constitution (Proposition 71). The book is anchored by one piece of legislation, tracing the contours of social inclusion and exclusion that undergird public science. Using qualitative research methods, I show how Proposition 71 gains meaning for people differently depending on their experiences of social class, race-ethnicity, gender, and disability, and that depending on who the public of such initiatives are imagined and made to be, how to implement a participatory science shifts radically. In this way, I argue, that epistemic and normative processes are inextricable.

Since completing People’s Science, I have started a new project that investigates genomic claims about the biological basis of race-ethnicity in a comparative context. I am once again interested in the role of power and resources, institutional structures and cultural patterns, which shape the way that different societies (South Africa and India in this case) engage with genomics. I was recently awarded an American Council of Learned Societies fellowship as well as a visiting appointment at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Science, Technology, and Society program to work on this project, tentatively titled Provincializing Science: Mapping and Marketing Ethnoracial Diversity in the Genomic Age.

In addition to research and teaching, I am involved in the Race, Education, and Democracy STEM Network that includes K-12 teachers, parents, students, and colleagues from neighboring colleges and universities in greater Boston. We are developing creative and sustainable ways to engage and empower Black and Latino youth in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM)—not only as career paths, but also as tools to address socio-economic, environmental, and health challenges in our communities.