On April 19 beginning at 4 p.m., Professor Jenny Reardon of University of California, Santa Cruz will give a lecture titled „Just Genomes?“ at the University of Freiburg as part of and first lecture of the Summer 2018 Colloquium series of the Chair in Science and Technology Studies, University College Freiburg.
Concerns about the links between racism and the then new science of genomics arose in the early 1990s when the proposal of the Human Genome Diversity Project raised worries that studies of human genetic variation would once again reduce human beings to their genes in ways that would strip them of rights. At the same time alarm bells sounded throughout the nascent genomics community about the immanent publication of Herrnstein and Murray’s (1994) controversial bestseller, The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. Human geneticists had done much work since World War II to distance the study of human genes from eugenics and race science under the NS regime, including inventing a new name for their field—genomics. 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. Based on in-depth ethnographic study of these cases, this talk explores why. From the International HapMap Project, to David Reich’s recent editorial in the New York Times, it explains how and by what means debates about ‘race’ and racism remain central to the postgenomic condition.
Following the lecture and discussion, audience members are invited to celebrate the publication of Prof. Reardon’s new book, The Postgenomic Condition, and her receipt of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Friedrich Wilhelm BesselResearch Award.