Call for Papers: Conference “Rethinking the Epigenome: Research, Risk and Responsibility in Postgenomic Times”, June 13-15, 2022, Technical University of Munich

Rethinking the Epigenome: Research, Risk and Responsibility in Postgenomic Time, June 13 – 15, 2022, Munich

Organisation: Prof. Ruth Müller (Technical University of Munich), Dr. Michael Penkler (University of Applied Sciences Wiener Neustadt), Sophia Rossmann (Technical University of Munich), Georgia Samaras (Technical University of Munich)

In the last 20 years, environmental epigenetics has become an increasingly important approach in biological and biomedical research as well as an object of social science inquiry. With its focus on how environmental factors shape gene expression and impact health and illness, environmental epigenetics has promised to present new molecular perspectives on the relationships between socio-material environments and bodies. This proposition led scholars from both the biological and the social sciences to herald epigenetics as resolving the age-old debate between “nature” and “nurture” or to even present a biology that operates without “biologism”. Yet, others were more critical and argued that epigenetics could also easily engender new forms of biologism and determinism, and could ultimately lead to new forms of social stigmatization and discrimination. However, few of these early postulations that opened the debate about epigenetics in the social sciences were necessarily empirically grounded, whether they were enthusiastic or critical.

In this conference, we seek to bring together scholars who have empirically engaged with environmental epigenetics and to explore together how this new knowledge proposition is taken up in a diverse set of practices, ranging from the lab to the clinic to the social arenas of public health, social policy and the media. We aim to assess what we know at this point about the epistemic, social, ethical and political dimensions of epigenetic knowledge and its production, translation and circulation. We are particularly interested in contributions that explore

  1. situated knowledge practices in and with environmental epigenetics in different scientific fields and global locations,
  2. translations of epigenetic knowledge into other social arenas such as the clinic or policy,
  3. the circulation of epigenetic knowledge in society, professional fields (such as education or psychotherapy) and the media,
  4. the ambivalent potential of epigenetics between tracing the molecular impact of social inequalities on health and supporting quests for health equity, and the risk of further stigmatizing disadvantaged individuals and groups.

By bringing together scholars from different fields and global locations, this conference aims to assess the state of the art of social science knowledge about environmental epigenetics and to identify key epistemic, social and political challenges and possibilities for biosocial research approaches such as environmental epigenetics. We also welcome contributions on related biosocial research approaches, such as microbiome research or RNA biology, as well as contributions from life scientists interested in critical reflections of epigenetics.

The conference aims to take place in Munich from June 13-15, 2022 to promote in-person conversation and dialogue if the pandemic permits. There will be limited possibilities for digital participation from scholars who are unable to travel to Munich. We can provide a limited number of travel fellowships for (junior) scholars with lack of funding support or from countries of the Global South and other disadvantaged regions.

Please note that for participating in the conference, a valid proof of vaccination for or recovery from Covid-19 in accordance with German regulations in June 2022 will be required. We will likely also provide daily testing opportunities in addition to vaccination or recovery to ensure health and safety. The conference will be limited to ca. 40 participants to allow for physical distancing at the conference venue.

Please submit your title, abstract (max. 300 words) and a short bio (max. 150 words) to until February 1, 2022. You will be notified about the acceptance of your contribution until February 15.

This conference is organised as part of the DFG-funded research project Situating Environmental Epigenetics. A Comparative, Actor-Centered Study of Environmental Epigenetics as an Emergent Research Approach in Three Research Fields.

Carl Friedrich von Siemens Stiftung
Südliches Schloßrondell 23
80638 Munich


Prof. Dr. Ruth Müller
Associate Professor of Science & Technology Policy
Vice Dean for Talent Management & Diversity
School of Social Sciences and Technology, Department of Science, Technology & Society
School of Management, Department of Economics & Policy
Technical University of Munich