For millennia, dominant societies have had the habit of believing their own people to be the best, deep down: the more powerful they become, the more power begins to be framed as natural, as well as cultural. When you see how power has shaped the idea of race, then you can start to understand its meaning.
In the twenty-first century, we like to believe that we have moved beyond scientific racism, that most people accept race as a social construct, not a biological one. But race science is experiencing a revival, fuelled by the misuse of science by certain political groups. Even well-intentioned scientists, through their use of racial categories in genetics and medicine, betray their suspicion that race has some basis in biology. In truth, it is no more real than it was hundreds of years ago, when our racial hierarchies were devised by those in power.
In Superior, award-winning author Angela Saini explores the concept of race, from its origins to the present day. Engaging with geneticists, anthropologists, historians and social scientists from across the globe, Superior is a rigorous, much needed examination of the insidious and destructive nature of race science.
Angela Saini presents science programmes on BBC Radio 4 and the World Service, and her writing has appeared in the New Scientist, the Guardian, The Sunday Times, Scientific American, Wired and the Economist. Angela has a Masters in Engineering from Oxford University, she is a former Knight Science Journalism Fellow at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Her work has won a string of national and international awards. Angela's first book, Geek Nation, was published by Hodder & Stoughton in 2011, and her second book, Inferior, was the subject of a national crowdfunding campaign which will donate a copy to every state school in the UK.
"[...] Ultimately, Superior is most impactful in describing the persistence of support for ideas of hierarchal differences from the Enlightenment onwards, in the face of political backlash and researchers' inability to even defme the primary variable at play: race. [...] Superior is perhaps best understood as continuing in a tradition of groundbreaking work that contextualizes the deep and problematic history of race science [...] Saini contributes to this conversation by linking the desire to make race real, particularly with regards to measurable health disparities, to society's underlying desire to let itself off the hook for these very inequalities."
– Robin G. Nelson, Department of Anthropology, Santa Clara University, California, Nature 570(7762), June 2019
"Roundly debunks racism's core lie – that inequality is to do with genetics, rather than political power"
– Reni Eddo-Lodge
"In this essential book, Angela Saini deftly shows how science and racism have long been intertwined, why that pernicious history continues to this day, and why "race science" is so deeply flawed. Deeply researched, masterfully written, and sorely needed, Superior is an exceptional work by one of the world's best science writers"
– Ed Yong
"This is an essential book on an urgent topic by one of our most authoritative science writers"
– Sathnam Sanghera
"Whether you think of racist science as bad science, evil science, alt-right science, or pseudoscience, why would any contemporary scientist imagine that gross inequality is a fact of nature, rather than of political history? Angela Saini's Superior connects the dots, laying bare the history, continuity, and connections of modern racist science, some more subtle than you might think. This is science journalism at its very best!"
– Jonathan Marks, author of Tales of the Ex-Apes: How We Think About Human Evolution
"Angela Saini's investigative and narrative talents shine in Superior, her compelling look at racial biases in science past and present. The result is both a crystal-clear understanding of why race science is so flawed, and why science itself is so vulnerable to such deeply troubling fault lines in its approach to the world around us – and to ourselves"
– Deborah Blum, author of The Poison Squad: One Chemist's Single-Minded Crusade for Food Safety at the Turn of the Twentieth Century
"Some writers have tackled the sordid history of race science previously, but none have gone so deep under the skin of the subject as Angela Saini in Superior. In her deceptively relaxed writing style, Saini patiently leads readers through the intellectual minefields of 'scientific' racism. She plainly exposes the conscious and unconscious biases that have led even some of our most illustrious scientists astray"
– Michael Balter, author of The Goddess and the Bull