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Journal Article

How white nationalists mobilize genetics: From genetic ancestry and human biodiversity to counterscience and metapolitics


Iturriaga,  Nicole
Religious Diversity, MPI for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Max Planck Society;

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Panofsky, A., Dasgupta, K., & Iturriaga, N. (2021). How white nationalists mobilize genetics: From genetic ancestry and human biodiversity to counterscience and metapolitics. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 175, 387-398. doi:10.1002/ajpa.24150.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0007-0081-6
Objectives:Our aim in this study was to understand how genetics ideas are appropri-ated and mobilized online toward the political projects of White nationalism and thealt right. Studying three different online venues, we investigated how genetics is usedto support racial realism, hereditarianism, and racial hierarchy. We analyzed howthese ideas are connected to political and metapolitical projects. In addition, weexamined the strategies used to build authority for these interpretations.Methods:We analyze three online venues in which genetics has been mobilized toadvance racial realism and hereditarian explanations of racial differences. These were(a) the use of genetic ancestry tests in online nationalist discussions, (b) blogs andother venues in which the human biodiversity ideas are articulated, (c) activities sur-rounding the OpenPsych collection of online journals. Ethnographic and interpretivemethods were applied to investigate scientific and political meanings of efforts tomobilize genetic ideas.Results:We found that White nationalists use genetic ancestry tests to align Whiteidentity with ideas of racial purity and diversity, educating each other about genetics,and debating the boundaries of Whiteness.“Human biodiversity”has been mobilizedas a movement to catalog and create hereditarian ideas about racial differences andto distribute them as“red pills”to transform online discourse. The OpenPsychjournals have allowed amateur hereditarian psychologists to publish papers, coordi-nate activity, and legitimate their project at the academic margins.Conclusions:These various appropriations of genetics aim to further racial realismand hereditarian explanations of racial social and behavioral differences. Beyondthese substantive aims, on a“metapolitical”level, they serve to reframe concepts andstandards for political and scientific discussion of race, challenge structures of aca-demic legitimacy and expertise, and build a cadre of ideological foot soldiers armedwith an argumentative toolkit. As professional anthropologists and geneticists aim toaccurately communicate their science and its implications for understanding humandifferences to the public, they must contend with these substantive claims and met-apolitical contexts.