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Genomics and the politics of human identity

1 October 2002 - 30 September 2012

PI/s in Exeter: Professor Christine Hauskeller


Project webpage(s)

Genomics and the politics of human identity

About the research

(Work undertaken at Egenis supported by the Egenis core grant).

Announcements of what the Human Genome Sequencing Project would deliver claimed that it would tell us what is special about humans and what makes each of us unique, justifying the exceptional treatment of genomic science in regulation and public discourse. The investigation of the self-representations of genomics in public declarations of aims and function identified the major role of genomics as the assurance of the identity of the species and of its members including the marking of social status of individuals. The ethical discussions amongst experts and in public present a similar picture – traits often are taken as markers for a person and the genome seems to define who and what one is.

Mapping the actual social uses of genomic knowledge and technologies leads to findings supporting the above interpretation. Social practices involving genes or the genome as a word, a concept or an object focus on its potential to establish what ‘one’ is. The borders of what is considered to be human and the traits of individual representatives of humans are negotiated and established in the currency of genomics.