Discussant: Rebecca Jordan-Young, Barnard College & NG board member.
Organizer and Chair: Cynthia Kraus, University of Lausanne & NG board member.
Sponsors: STS Lab & ISS, University of Lausanne, NG Network, Barnard College, Emory University.
Oliver Rollins (University of Chicago) is a qualitative sociologist who works on issues of race/racism in and through science and technology. Specifically, his research explores how racial identity, racialized discourses, and systemic practices of social difference influence, engage with, and are affected by, the making and use of neuroscientific technologies and knowledges. Rollins’s book, Conviction: The Making and Unmaking of The Violent Brain (Stanford University Press, 2021), traces the development and use of neuroimaging research on anti-social behaviors, with special attention to the limits of this controversial brain model when dealing with aspects of social difference, power, and inequality. Currently, he is working on two new projects. The first, Neuro-visions of the Prejudice Mind, examines the neuroscience of implicit bias, chiefly the challenges, consequences, and promises of operationalizing racial prejudice and identity as neurobiological processes. The other, Technoscientific Imaginaries of Anti-Racism, seeks to elucidate, and speculate, the socio-political dilemmas, ethical vulnerabilities, anti-racist potentials for contemporary (neuro)scientific practices.
There is a notorious and quite racist history that underpins biological research on violence. In attempts to eschew this past, today’s neuroscientific and genetic researchers reject deterministic and racist explanations of violence for brain-based risk models of such behaviors. Nevertheless, in Conviction, Rollins pinpoints a looming danger in this technology, due to the ways it re-envisions, and ultimately silences, the voices, bodies, and experiences of those most affected by social difference, power, and inequality. The threat from biological theories of violence today is less about the return of an older bio-deterministic explanation of crime. Instead, Rollins warns that the latent danger of the violent brain model rests in the way it will normatively preserve static social and racial inequities through the technical omission of unequal life chances.