The racialization of US Public Health: A paradox of the modern state

Cloos, P. (2015)

Cultural Studies? Critical Methodologies

15(5) | 379-386

The use of the category “race/ethnicity” intensified in the field of U.S. Public Health following the Clinton administration’s announcement of a budget increase for research focusing on ethnic and racial disparities in health. This article discusses the ways in which racialized difference is produced and represented as an object of knowledge and regulated by discursive practices in public health documents from U.S. federal government offices and a major public health journal published between 2001 and 2013. Races are approached, following Foucault’s proposition, as the product of racism, a technology of power of the modern State that consists of fragmenting humanity to permit colonizations. Thus, “race” has been established within the discourse to mark difference. Racism has developed concomitantly with the affirmation of power over life aimed at ruling out bodies and populations through public health practices, among others. The results suggest that the discourse on race varies throughout time. They indicate the relative permanence of a racialized regime of representation that consists of identifying, situating, and opposing subjects and groups based on standardized labels. This regime constitutes an ensemble of representational practices, which, together with disciplinary techniques and the use of culture as an idea, lead to the characterization and formation of racialized objects and stereotypes. These operations tend, together with medicalization and culturalization, to naturalize difference and constitute racial identities.