Past Event

Just Genomes?

October 8, 2018
4:00 PM - 6:00 PM
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Knox Hall (Room #509), Columbia University, 606 W 122nd St, New York

Speaker: Jenny Reardon

At the end of the last millennium, the proposal of the Human Genome Diversity Project and the immanent publication of Herrnstein and Murray’s controversial bestseller, The Bell Curve, sparked worries that the new science of genomics would reignite scientific racism. Since WWIII, human geneticists had labored to distance the study of human genes from eugenics and the Nazi regime. Would that work, and the possibility of a genomic account of human differences, be undone before the research had even really begun? To avert this possibility, in the wake of the sequencing of the human genome—or the postgenomic era—genome scientists and their supporters proposed a new ‘democratic’ approach to genomics. In several high profile cases, they proposed to give power back to “the people” to define themselves, and to control use of their DNA. Yet the problem of race and racism persisted. From the International HapMap Project, to David Reich’s recent editorial in the New York Times, this talk explains how and by what means debates about ‘race’ and racism remain central and formative of the postgenomic condition.

Sponsored by the Department of Sociology and the Precision Medicine and Society Program. 

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.