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Ruha Benjamin    

Sociology & African American Studies Scholar; Author of "People's Science"

Ruha Benjamin is a sociology and African American studies scholar who examines the relationship between science, technology, medicine and society. She is the author of "People's Science: Bodies and Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier" and is a professor of Sociology and African American studies at Boston University. Ruha's work is at the forefront of the debate over the relationships between innovation & equity, science & citizenship and health & justice.

She is an American Council of Learned Societies fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School's Science, Technology and Society Program, and she serves on the editorial board of the New York University book series, Biopolitics: Medicine, Technoscience and Health in the Twenty-First Century.

Recently, Ruha began an international comparative project, Provincializing Science, which examines how the uptake of genomic science in different countries reflects, reinforces and sometimes challenges racial and caste hierarchies.

In her book, "People's Science," Ruha takes the reader inside California's 2004 stem cell initiative— the first of many state referenda on scientific research— and examines the lives it has affected. Benjamin reveals the promise and peril of public participation in science, illuminating issues of race, disability, gender and socio-economic class that serve to define certain groups as more or less deserving in their political aims and biomedical hopes.

Ruha received a Ph.D. in sociology at the University of California Berkeley in 2008. She's received numerous fellowships and grants for research and has been invited to dozens of international talks and panels.

Speech Topics

Race Unplugged: Moving Beyond Media Sound Bytes

College campuses are ground zero for racial misunderstanding, alienation, resentment, and violence—a place where many people are surprised to learn that hate crimes are common—alerting us to the fact that we urgently need new conceptual tools to understand and intervene upon the racial status quo. In her eye-opening lecture, Ruha Benjamin challenges contemporary race talk that often traffics in sound bytes, by showing how many of our relationships and institutions actually depend upon racial inequities, from healthcare to education, crime and punishment to entertainment. In so doing, she unpacks the “inconvenient facts” about racism in the United States with passion, candor, and reason. She also draws on firsthand experience in over twenty Asian, African, European, and Central American countries, to discuss how practices in the U.S. compare and contrast to other regions of the world.

Citizen Science 2.0

Are science and technology neutral? Or do they reflect and foster particular social values? What role, if any, should citizens have in shaping science and technology?Grounded in the heated battle over stem cell research in the United States, in this talk Ruha Benjamin highlights the voices of those who are typically “on the table, but not at the table”—people with disabilities, racial-ethnic minorities, members of the working class, and women—and asks us to consider whether citizens should have the power to influence science and technology as much as science and technology influence society.

Bio-Politics in the 21st Century

Designer Babies. Regenerative Medicine. DNA forensics. Genetic discrimination. Newborn Screening. Genetic Ancestry Testing. High-Tech Eugenics. Gender Testing. Cryopreservation. These and more comprise the landscape of the 21st century in which we are all ethical pioneers and biopolitical citizens. Using stem cell research as a window in to this exciting and disconcerting Brave New World, in this talk Ruha Benjamin moves us beyond the debates that devolve in to simple judgments—good or bad, life-saving medicine or bioethical nightmare, symbol of human ingenuity or our fall from grace—that too often ignore the people affected. Instead, Ruha moves the terms of discussion to focus on the shifting relationship between science and society, to the people who benefit—or don’t—from scientific innovation and what this says about our democratic commitments to an equitable society.


Ruha Benjamin, Ph.D.: Which Comes First: The Woman or Her Eggs?

Imagine two women sitting in a waiting room -- one is a store clerk, and the other is an investment banker -- preparing to donate their eggs for a particular type of ...

The power of prejudice -- and why you should speak up -

... say about the person's willingness to sacrifice something in order to change a situation, observes Ruha Benjamin, professor of sociology at Boston University.

Ruha Benjamin, Ph.D.: Playing the Game or Hacking the System?

June 1, 2013 marked the first National Day of Civic Hacking. The organizers describe it as a time for 'creating, building, and inventing open source solutions to  ...

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