Eclipse of the gene and the return of divination: dealing with risk estimates for late onset complex disease
Past event 16.02.2006
Professor Margaret Lock, The Marjorie Bronfman Professor in Social Studies in Medicine, Dept of Social Studies of Medicine, McGill University, Montreal
LT 183, Old College, University of Edinburgh, Southbridge (LT 183 is on the ground floor, right hand side of the quad)
The lecture starts with a discussion about the ontological problems that have arisen as a result of recent genomic findings causing a demotion of the gene. Using the APOE susceptibility gene as an illustrative example, several current competing discourses about the genetics of Alzheimer Disease (AD), those of basic scientists, clinicians, epidemiologists, and biological anthropologists, will then be presented.
In the second part of the talk Professor Lock presents findings from two qualitative projects in one of which the first degree relatives of individuals diagnosed with late onset AD have been tested to ascertain which of the APOE polymorphisms they have, on the basis of which they receive risk estimates for AD, and then are later interviewed about their responses to this testing. The findings from these interviews make it clear that, even among those people who actively seek out genetic testing, responses to risk estimates for this late onset complex disease reveal confusion, dissatisfaction, and resignation, but also hope and defiance.
In conclusion Professor Lock considers what these finding indicate for social science theorizing about geneticization, somatic subjectivity, and biosociality.