Blood is messy, dangerous, and charged with meaning. By following it as it circulates through people and institutions, Jenny Bangham explores the intimate connections between the early infrastructures of blood transfusion and the development of human genetics. Focusing on mid-twentieth-century Britain, Blood Relations connects histories of eugenics to the local politics of giving blood, showing how the exchange of blood carved out networks that made human populations into objects of medical surveillance and scientific research. Bangham reveals how biology was transformed by two world wars, how scientists have worked to define racial categories, and how the practices and rhetoric of public health made genetics into a human science. Today, genetics is a powerful authority on human health and identity, and Blood Relations helps us understand how this authority was achieved.
In 1993, an American biotechnology company and a French genetics lab developed a collaborative research plan to search for diabetes genes. But just as the project was to begin, the French government called it to a halt, barring the laboratory from sharing something never previously thought of as a commodity unto itself: French DNA.
Contemporary developments in human genetics are profoundly meaningful, both for the rapidity of scientific discoveries and for their personal and social implications. The Human Genome Project, a worldwide effort to map the 50,000 to 100,000 genes making up the human blueprint, is creating new ways of understanding ourselves as individuals, as parents, as members of a family, an ethnic group, a species. Almost every day yet another medical detective finds a genetic clue to the long-running mystery of human identity.
In 1992, the University of Iowa Humanities Symposium provided a public forum to examine the issues—moral, conceptual, legal, and practical—in modern genetics that are crucial to all of us. This strong, challenging volume is a collection of the major essays presented by historians, philosophers, and other academic humanists to a multidisciplinary audience of molecular and clinical geneticists, genetic counselors, humanists, and members of the public. The essays explore the historical background, philosophical implications, and ethical issues related to the Human Genome Project as well as other developments in modern genetics.
The questions raised in these essays are dramatic and troubling. What kind of knowledge is being produced by molecular geneticists? Do individual human genomes differ significantly from each other? How much do females and males differ from each other at the molecular level? Is there any genetic basis for distinguishing among racial or ethical groups? Can current practices in genetics counseling be compared to the earlier eugenics movement? Will current research lead to updated views on genetic “normalcy” or even “superiority”?
With every passing year, more and more people learn that they or their young or unborn child carries a genetic mutation. But what does this mean for the way we understand a person? Today, genetic mutations are being used to diagnose novel conditions like the XYY, Fragile X, NGLY1 mutation, and 22q11.2 Deletion syndromes, carving out rich new categories of human disease and difference. Daniel Navon calls this form of categorization “genomic designation,” and in Mobilizing Mutations he shows how mutations, and the social factors that surround them, are reshaping human classification.
Drawing on a wealth of fieldwork and historical material, Navon presents a sociological account of the ways genetic mutations have been mobilized and transformed in the sixty years since it became possible to see abnormal human genomes, providing a new vista onto the myriad ways contemporary genetic testing can transform people’s lives.
Taking us inside these shifting worlds of research and advocacy over the last half century, Navon reveals the ways in which knowledge about genetic mutations can redefine what it means to be ill, different, and ultimately, human.
The Western moral tradition has been profoundly influenced by attempts to ground moral convictions in an analysis of human nature, whether conceived in rational, emotional, or biological terms. This idea that nature is the ultimate standard of our actions is found in writers as different as Aristotle, Hume, Hobbes, and Darwin, as well as their modern followers. But in an age of rapid biological changes brought on by biotechnologies such as stem-cell research, gene therapy, and mood-altering drugs, can human nature still serve as a basis for our moral thinking?
This is the question explored by Richard Sherlock in Nature’s End: The Theological Meaning of the New Genetics. Sherlock contends that in light of the fact that we can now alter human nature we must find a transnatural standpoint from which to make moral judgments—that is, a theological standpoint. Current and future advances in genetic and biological science require a bold theological response, argues Sherlock, not a response based on pragmatism or arguments from nature, including natural-law arguments.
Sherlock provocatively calls for moral traditionalists to aim not so much for rational agreement as moral conversion, a “mighty change of heart.” Theology must bear witness to its deepest convictions about the meaning of human existence, he writes, and try to get people to see the world anew. Nothing less will serve to meet the deepest moral challenges let loose by the new biosciences.
The Faustian bargain—in which an individual or group collaborates with an evil entity in order to obtain knowledge, power, or material gain—is perhaps best exemplified by the alliance between world-renowned human geneticists and the Nazi state. Under the swastika, German scientists descended into the moral abyss, perpetrating heinous medical crimes at Auschwitz and at euthanasia hospitals. But why did biomedical researchers accept such a bargain?
The Nazi Symbiosis offers a nuanced account of the myriad ways human heredity and Nazi politics reinforced each other before and during the Third Reich. Exploring the ethical and professional consequences for the scientists involved as well as the political ramifications for Nazi racial policies, Sheila Faith Weiss places genetics and eugenics in their larger international context. In questioning whether the motives that propelled German geneticists were different from the compromises that researchers from other countries and eras face, Weiss extends her argument into our modern moment, as we confront the promises and perils of genomic medicine today.
This report explores the complex ethical, political, psychological, and economic questions that arise from developments in medical genetics. It reviews research in applied genetics at the interface of the social and bio-medical fields, including the counseling and study of birth control, as well as the active treatment and selection of individual genetic attributes.
The book describes the “nation-building” strategy by which an increasing number of Native communities have set about reclaiming powers of self-determination, strengthening their cultures, and developing their economies. A piece of this movement has been the establishment of new models for tribally-driven and requested relations between universities and American Indian/Alaskan Native communities and organizations.
Building on the Harvard Project on American Indian Economic Development’s experience with more than 120 nation-building projects over two decades, Universities and Indian Country posits that the tenets of nation building can provide a strategy for expanding and diversifying universities’ perspectives of knowledge in a multicultural world, while also producing results that are requested by and useful to Native communities.
This groundbreaking volume extends the dialogue begun by the Harvard project, providing another venue for the sharing of knowledge and information. The projects presented address a wide range of topics, including the regulation of genetic research, human resource development, tribal fund-raising, development of tribal museums, and freedom of the press in Indian Country.
Universities and Indian Country’s focus on the concerns and questions of Native communities themselves, provides insight not only into how projects came together, but also into what significance they have to the tribal partners. This compilation is a valuable resource for any student, professional, or community member concerned with issues of nation building and self-determination.