The Postgenomic Condition: A Selected Bibliography

May 24th, 2018

 Drawing on more than a decade of research—in molecular biology labs, commercial startups, governmental agencies, and civic spaces—Jenny Reardon demonstrates how the extensive efforts to transform genomics from high tech informatics practiced by a few to meaningful knowledge beneficial to all exposed the limits of long-cherished liberal modes of knowing and governing life. Those in the American South challenged the value of being included in genomics when no hospital served their community. Ethicists and lawyers charged with overseeing Scottish DNA and data questioned how to develop a system of ownership for these resources when their capacity to create things of value—new personalized treatments—remained largely unrealized. Molecular biologists who pioneered genomics asked whether their practices of thinking could survive the deluge of data produced by the growing power of sequencing machines. While the media is filled with grand visions of precision medicine, The Postgenomic Condition shares these actual challenges of the scientists, entrepreneurs, policy makers, bioethicists, lawyers, and patient advocates who sought to leverage liberal democratic practices to render genomic data a new source of meaning and value for interpreting and caring for life. It brings into rich empirical focus the resulting hard on-the-ground questions about how to know and live on a depleted but data-rich, interconnected yet fractured planet, where technoscience garners significant resources, but deeper questions of knowledge and justice urgently demand attention. Jenny Reardon will discuss The Postgenomic Condition tonight: 05/23 at 6pm.  

Inclusion: The Politics of Difference in Medical Research, by Steven Epstein - Should the medical system move beyond using 'white males' as their ideal subjects of research? While the answer would seem an unqualified 'yes,' in his theoretically astute and empirically rich analysis, Epstein describes the paradoxes of including 'diverse' peoples in biomedical research--how it can both help and hurt citizens. He explains how these paradoxes bedevil efforts to make our medical system and our polity more representative--and just.

The Human Condition, by Hannah Arendt - How do we speak and think about that which we do? This is the simple question at the heart of Arendt's work. She writes in the wake of the Nazi regime. Arendt provides an enormously valuable reflection on how to escape moral certainties in order that we might think and act in the face of radical evil.

The Social Life of DNA, by Alondra Nelson - In the wake of the sequencing of the human genome, citizens around the world sought to transform the genome into a new ground for social action. Nelson follows one such effort, the work of African American scientists and genealogists to use genomics to advance claims for reparations for slavery. In so doing, she uncovers the promises and the perils of enrolling genomics in the causes of social justice.

Good Science: The Ethical Choreography of Stem Cell Science, by Charis Thompson - The question of what constitutes good science has bedeviled scientists and theorists for over a century. In liberal democratic societies that take rationality and science as their guide, a credible answer to this question is central to social stability. Thompson argues that in the 21st century, it is no longer viable to argue that good science depends on science's separation from questions of politics and ethics. Rather good science and the good society are made together.

Unreal Objects: Digital Materialities, Technoscientific Projects and Political Realities, by Kate O'Riordan - Contemporary life entails making sense of the prominent promises of novel forms of science and technology. Genomics will cure cancer. Biosensors will increase energy efficiency. A Fitbit will improve your health. Yet, what material realities do these promises generate? O’Riordan argues that today we live in a digitized world of unreal objects—objects that disorient us and direct our attention towards fantastic futures, while failing to respond to the present needs of too many.

About Jenny Reardon:  Jenny Reardon is a Professor of Sociology and the Founding Director of the Science and Justice Research Center at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research draws into focus questions about identity, justice and democracy that are often silently embedded in scientific ideas and practices, particularly in modern genomic research. Her training spans molecular biology, the history of biology, science studies, feminist and critical race studies, and the sociology of science, technology and medicine. She is the author of Race to the Finish: Identity and Governance in an Age of Genomics (Princeton University Press, 2005) and The Postgenomic Condition: Ethics, Justice, Knowledge After the Genome (Chicago University Press, Fall 2017). She has been the recipient of fellowships and awards from, among others, the National Science Foundation, the Max Planck Institute, the Humboldt Foundation, the London School of Economics, the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, and the United States Congressional Committee on Science, Space and Technology.


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