Gender and Sexuality
Nancy Krieger, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health

Challenging Biological Essentialism with Embodied Histories of Health Inequities


A lurking biological essentialism infuses contemporary research on “health disparities.” Mindful of the long reach of early 20th century mainstream eugenics, biological sexism, and the long shadow of Jim Crow, I discuss how NIH presents “health disparities” in its strategic documents and its new mandate to account for sex, but not also gender, in all studies. I draw on ecosocial theory to present an alternative approach that conceptualizes health inequities as embodied history, using examples from trends in US mortality, police violence, breast cancer, including in relation to Jim Crow.