Analyzing the use of race and ethnicity in biomedical research from a local community perspective
Foster, Morris W.
Journal of Law, Medicine and Ethics 2006 Fall; 34(3): 508-512
Lost in the debate over the use of racial and ethnic categories in biomedical research is community-level analysis of how these categories function and influence health. Such analysis offers a powerful critique of national and transnational categories usually used in biomedical research such as "African-American" and "Native American." Ethnographic research on local African-American and Native American communities in Oklahoma shows the importance of community-level analysis. Local ("intra-community") health practices tend to be shared by members of an everyday interactional community without regard to racial or ethnic identity. Externally created ("extra-community") practices tend to be based on the existence of externally-imposed racial or ethnic identities, but African-American and Native American community members show similar patterns in their use of extra-community practices. Thus, membership in an interactional community seems more important than externally-imposed racial or ethnic identity in determining local health practices, while class may be as or more important in accounting for extra-community practices.
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