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Genomics Forum · Events

The Social Relations of Emergent Genetic Biotechnologies: Control, Surveillance and Exclusion

Past event   07.09.2006






Professor Evan Willis, La Trobe University, Australia


Boardroom, ESRC Genomics Forum, 3rd Floor, St John's Land


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This paper explores the social context and impact of DNA testing which have arisen out of the Human Genome Project.

In sociological terms, the paper investigates the uses of testing that are not so much for individual benefit but for collective, broader societal uses; especially those applications that have the potential to classify individuals socially thus creating mechanisms for social inclusion or exclusion, as well as potentially the creation of a underclass of the genetically disadvantaged. These applications include insurance, employment, paternity, newborn screening, forensic and immigration.

Using a Foucauldian conceptual perspective; this overview paper analyses the discourses surrounding the uses of these technologies in terms of changing forms of knowledge and power. Drawing on evidence from several countries including Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia, questions investigated include; how are the results of testing being used in the broader societal context; what are the unintended consequences of testing (as distinct from intended ones); and what regulatory or other governance might be necessary to maximise the benefits of DNA testing?

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