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Race, genetic determinism and the media: An exploratory study of media coverage of genetics and Indigenous Australians

Abstract

Social scientists and Indigenous people have voiced concerns that media messages about genetics and race may increase the public's belief in genetic determinism and even increase levels of racism. The degree of genetic determinism in media messages has been examined as a determining factor. This study is the first to consider the implications of this area of scholarship for the indigenous minority in Australia. A search of the last two decades of major Australian newspapers was undertaken for articles that discussed Indigenous Australians and genetics. The review found 212 articles, of which 58 concerned traits or conditions that were presented in a genetically deterministic or antideterministic fashion. These 58 articles were analysed by topic, slant, and time period. Overall, 23 articles were anti-deterministic, 18 were deterministic, 14 presented both sides and three were ambiguous. There was a spike in anti-deterministic articles in the years after the Human Genome Diversity Project, and a parallel increase in deterministic articles since the completion of the Human Genome Project in 2000. Potential implications of the nature of media coverage of genetics for Indigenous Australians is discussed. Further research is required to test directly the impact of these messages on Australians.

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Correspondence to Emma Kowal.

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Kowal, E., Frederic, G. Race, genetic determinism and the media: An exploratory study of media coverage of genetics and Indigenous Australians. Life Sci Soc Policy 8, 1 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1186/1746-5354-8-2-1

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Keywords

  • Social Scientist
  • Human Genome
  • Indigenous People
  • Exploratory Study
  • Genome Project