Talking Biopolitics with Alondra Nelson and Jenny Reardon

Promotional banner displaying headshot portraits of Alondra Nelson and Jenny Reardon, with their book covers. Alondra's Social Life of DNA illustrates a vertical DNA sequence. Jenny's Post Genomic Condition shows a pattern for DNA


Alondra Nelson and Jenny Reardon, both authors of recent books about genomics and social justice, engaged in conversation about their work. They explored how institutions respond to histories of racism in which genetics plays a role; the problems of knowledge that living in a genome-oriented world present; and how we can develop new understandings of racism, morality, and genetic justice.

This webinar was part of Talking Biopolitics 2018, a continuing series by the Center for Genetics and Society, where cutting-edge thinkers talk about the social meanings of human biotechnologies. We regularly updated our Facebook event page, and live-tweeted the conversation using #TalkingBiopolitics.

Live captioning and audio description was provided. A transcript and recording will be available in the coming weeks.

A video recording and written transcript are available.


About the Speakers:

Quote from Rebeccas Skloot, Author of The Immortal Life of Henrieta Lacks, "Alondra Nelson takes us into a complex and endlessly fascinating space where genetic ancestry testing meets racial politics. ... The Social Life of DNA comes at a moment when the questions it raises about race and social justice couldn’t be more pressing and urgent.

Alondra Nelson is professor of sociology and gender studies at Columbia University, where she has served as the inaugural Dean of Social Science and Director of the Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality. She is president of the Social Science Reseach Council and chair of the American Sociological Association Section on Science, Knowledge, and Technology. Professor Nelson is an interdisciplinary social scientist whose research focuses on how science and its applications may shape the social world, including aspects of personal identification, racial formation, and collective action. In turn, she also explores the ways in which social groups reject, challenge, engage and, in some instances, adopt and mobilize conceptualizations of race, ethnicity, and gender derived from scientific and technical domains. She recently began new ethnographic research that examines grassroots responses to the STEM-field crisis and a study of science and technology policy in the Obama administration. Her most recent book, The Social Life of DNA: Race, Reparations, and Reconciliation after the Genome (Beacon Press, 2016), traces how claims about ancestry are marshaled together with genetic analysis in a range of social ventures.

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. In her recently released book, The Postgenomic Condition: Ethics, Justice, Knowledge After the Genome (Chicago University Press, Fall 2017), Professor Reardon critically examines the decade after the Human Genome Project, and the fundamental questions about meaning, value and justice this landmark achievement left in its wake. She is also the author of Race to the Finish: Identity and Governance in an Age of Genomics (Princeton University Press, 2005).

Quote from Nature, "The post genomic condition is about using information and knowledge as the currency from which to build a genomics that is of, for, and by the people..

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