"The DNA Mystique is a wake-up call to all who would dismiss America's love affair with 'the gene' as a merely eccentric obsession."
--In These Times
"Nelkin and Lindee are to be warmly congratulated for opening up this intriguing field [of genetics in popular culture] to further study."
The DNA Mystique suggests that the gene in popular culture draws on scientific ideas but is not constrained by the technical definition of the gene as a section of DNA that codes for a protein. In highlighting DNA as it appears in soap operas, comic books, advertising, and other expressions of mass culture, the authors propose that these domains provide critical insights into science itself.
With a new introduction and conclusion, this edition will continue to be an engaging, accessible, and provocative text for the sociology, anthropology, and bioethics classroom, as well as stimulating reading for those generally interested in science and culture.
In light of scientific advances such as genomics, predictive diagnostics, genetically engineered agriculture, nuclear transfer cloning, and the manipulation of stem cells, the idea that genes carry predetermined molecular programs or blueprints is pervasive. Yet new scientific discoveries—such as rna transcripts of single genes that can lead to the production of different compounds from the same pieces of dna—challenge the concept of the gene alone as the dominant factor in biological development. Increasingly aware of the tension between certain empirical results and interpretations of those results based on the orthodox view of genetic determinism, a growing number of scientists urge a rethinking of what a gene is and how it works. In this collection, a group of internationally renowned scientists present some prominent alternative approaches to understanding the role of dna in the construction and function of biological organisms.
Contributors discuss alternatives to the programmatic view of dna, including the developmental systems approach, methodical culturalism, the molecular process concept of the gene, the hermeneutic theory of description, and process structuralist biology. None of the approaches cast doubt on the notion that dna is tremendously important to biological life on earth; rather, contributors examine different ideas of how dna should be represented, evaluated, and explained. Just as ideas about genetic codes have reached far beyond the realm of science, the reconceptualizations of genetic theory in this volume have broad implications for ethics, philosophy, and the social sciences.
Contributors. Thomas Bürglin, Brian C. Goodwin, James Griesemer, Paul Griffiths, Jesper Hoffmeyer, Evelyn Fox Keller, Gerd B. Müller, Eva M. Neumann-Held, Stuart A. Newman, Susan Oyama, Christoph Rehmann-Sutter, Sahotra Sarkar, Jackie Leach Scully, Gerry Webster, Ulrich Wolf
Our genetic markers have come to be regarded as portals to the past. Analysis of these markers is increasingly used to tell the story of human migration; to investigate and judge issues of social membership and kinship; to rewrite history and collective memory; to right past wrongs and to arbitrate legal claims and human rights controversies; and to open new thinking about health and well-being. At the same time, in many societies genetic evidence is being called upon to perform a kind of racially charged cultural work: to repair the racial past and to transform scholarly and popular opinion about the “nature” of identity in the present.
Genetics and the Unsettled Past considers the alignment of genetic science with commercial genealogy, with legal and forensic developments, and with pharmaceutical innovation to examine how these trends lend renewed authority to biological understandings of race and history.
This unique collection brings together scholars from a wide range of disciplines—biology, history, cultural studies, law, medicine, anthropology, ethnic studies, sociology—to explore the emerging and often contested connections among race, DNA, and history. Written for a general audience, the book’s essays touch upon a variety of topics, including the rise and implications of DNA in genealogy, law, and other fields; the cultural and political uses and misuses of genetic information; the way in which DNA testing is reshaping understandings of group identity for French Canadians, Native Americans, South Africans, and many others within and across cultural and national boundaries; and the sweeping implications of genetics for society today.
Schwartz presents the history of genetics through the eyes of a dozen or so central players, beginning with Charles Darwin and ending with Nobel laureate Hermann J. Muller. This book offers readers the background they need to understand the latest findings in genetics and those still to come in the search for the genetic basis of complex diseases and traits.
Thierry Bardini University of Minnesota Press, 2011 Library of Congress BD450.B37 2011 | Dewey Decimal 128
Are we made of junk? Thierry Bardini believes we are. Examining an array of cybernetic structures from genetic codes to communication networks, he explores the idea that most of culture and nature, including humans, is composed primarily of useless, but always potentially recyclable, material otherwise known as "junk."
Bardini unravels the presence of junk at the interface between science fictions and fictions of science, showing that molecular biology and popular culture since the early 1960s belong to the same culture-cyberculture-which is essentially a culture of junk. He draws on a wide variety of sources, including the writings of Philip K. Dick and William S. Burroughs, interviews with scientists as well as "crackpots," and work in genetics, cybernetics, and physics to support his contention that junk DNA represents a blind spot in our understanding of life.
At the same time, Junkware examines the cultural history that led to the encoding and decoding of life itself and the contemporary turning of these codes into a commodity. But he also contends that, beyond good and evil, the essential "junkiness" of this new subject is both the symptom and the potential cure.
For the past 175 years, the Latter-day Saint Church has taught that Native Americans and Polynesians are descended from ancient seafaring Israelites. Recent DNA research confirms what anthropologists have been saying for nearly as many years, that Native Americans are originally from Siberia and Polynesians from Southeast Asia. In the current volume, molecular biologist Simon Southerton explains the theology and the science and how the former is being reshaped by the latter.
In the Book of Mormon, the Jewish prophet Lehi says the following after arriving by boat in America in 600 BCE:
Wherefore, I, Lehi, have obtained a promise, that inasmuch as those whom the Lord God shall bring out of the land of Jerusalem shall keep his commandments, they shall prosper upon the face of this land; and they shall be kept from all other nations, that they may possess this land unto themselves (2 Ne. 1:9).
The Poetics of DNA
Judith Roof University of Minnesota Press, 2007 Library of Congress QP624.R66 2007 | Dewey Decimal 572.86
How has DNA come to be seen as a cosmic truth, representative of all life, potential for all cures, repository for all identity, and end to all stories? In The Poetics of DNA, Judith Roof examines the rise of this powerful symbol and the implications of its ascendancy for the ways we think—about ourselves, about one another, and about the universe.
Descriptions of DNA, Roof argues, have distorted ideas and transformed nucleic acid into the answer to all questions of life. This hyperbolized notion of DNA, inevitably confused or conflated with the “gene,” has become a vector through which older ways of thinking can merge with the new, advancing long-discredited and insidious ideas about such things as eugenics and racial selection and influencing contemporary debates, particularly the popular press obsession with the “gay gene.” Through metaphors of DNA, she contends, racist and homophobic ideology is masked as progressive science.
Grappling with twentieth-century intellectual movements as well as contemporary societal anxieties, The Poetics of DNA reveals how descriptions of DNA and genes typify a larger set of epistemological battles that play out not only through the assumptions associated with DNA but also through less evident methods of magical thinking, reductionism, and pseudoscience.
For the first time, Roof exposes the ideology and cultural consequences of DNA and gene metaphors to uncover how, ultimately, they are paradigms used to recreate prejudices.
Judith Roof is professor of English and film studies at Michigan State University. She is the author of several books, including All about Thelma and Eve: Sidekicks and Third Wheels.