1. ESRC Genomics Network (archive)
  2. Gengage
  3. The Human Genre Project

Cesagen · Research

Genetic Fictions: Genes, Gender and Genre

Joan Haran

Start date



This project examines the representation in fiction of contemporary biotechnologies and the social, political and ethical challenges they pose. Case studies developed around five novels to explore issues relating to genetically modified organisms, genetic mutation in humans resulting from nuclear testing, saviour siblings, genetic manipulation and enhancement of human subjects, and the gendering of laboratory life will be assembled in a book addressed to audiences in science and technology studies, cultural studies and gender studies. This project builds on previous research about the use of narrative fictions for social theorising – Haran (2003) Re-visioning Feminist Futures: Literature as Social Theory available at the Warwick Research Archive Project - as well as on the Cesagen flagship project (2004 – 2007) on . The book makes a case for treating fiction as a key node in a network of circulating technoscientific imaginaries, arguing that these fictions are in intertextual dialogue with scientific journals, popular science books, mass media coverage of science and technology and a range of other genres that take science in society as a key topic.


This project will trace genetic and genomic themes through contemporary fictions. It will situate these fictions in relation to other texts which treat similar themes empirically or speculatively. It will account for the audiences and publics addressed by the various texts and explore the ways in which these audiences or publics do or do not intersect by virtue of the hopes and anxieties they (do not) have in common.


This project draws on science and technology studies, gender studies & cultural and media studies. A range of textual analysis strategies are deployed, situated in the context of a variety of material and imagined interpretive communities. The project benefits from the interdisciplinary conversations and the mapping of bioknowledge economies, publics and sustainable innovation taking place at Cesagen.


The social and ethical aspects of genetics, as well as their therapeutic promises can be found as topic matter across a wide range of contemporary fictions. Remediation is a key strategy used in such fictions, as is a knowing incorporation of critiques of the mass media, of media management strategies and the mediation of science. Different genres – for example literary fiction, speculative fiction or women’s issues fiction – afford different possibilities for imagining, exploring and / or contesting the current and future promises of genetic technoscience as well as its history. They also address and constitute different audiences and publics.

Project update

The ubiquitous permeation of contemporary textual genres by technoscientific ideas and issues is a key theme. Concerns about biopolitics and biocitizens more generally can be traced in a wide range of contemporary novels. Attention to such traces is important because of the ways in which they demonstrate the circulation of key hopes and anxieties about the positive and negative potentials of genetic technoscience.


A monograph entitled Genetic Fictions: Genes, Gender and Genre is in preparation.

Further information

The following conference papers have been presented in the course of this research:
  • 'Half Life and Transatlantic Identity Politics', SFRA Annual Conference: Dreams Not Only American: Science Fiction’s Transatlantic Transactions, Maria Curie-Sklodowska University, Lublin, Poland
  • 'Re-visioning, Re-Reading and Other Feminist Reading/Writing/Theory-Building Practices', Feminism and its Methods, Manchester Museum, July 2010
  • 'All Over Creation: Constructing GM Publics Through Contemporary Fiction', Science and the Public, Imperial College, University of London, July 2010
  • 'All Over Creation: Reimagining Nature/Cultures?', The 4th Christina Conference on Gender Studies: Gender, Nature and Culture, University of Helsinki, May 2010
  • 'Life: A symptomatic reading of biodigital / biographical disruptions', Biodigital Lives, University of Sussex, July 2009
  • 'On the Vulnerability of Utopian Subjectivity', Hope: A Workshop on Feminist Theory, Lancaster University, January 2009
  • 'Revisioning Feminism: Imagining Feminist Futures', Ending International Feminist Futures Conference, University of Aberdeen, October, 2008