"The Postgenomic Condition: Property, public, private after the genome" by Jenny Reardon

Past Event

06 March 2013, 5:00pm - 6:00pm

64 Banbury Road, Oxford

This event is hosted by the Bioproperty Research Group, part of the Institute of Science, Innovation and Society, in the Oxford Martin School

Speaker: Jenny Reardon, Associate Professor of Sociology and Faculty Affiliate, Center for Biomolecular Science and Engineering, UC Santa Cruz

Summary: Based in ethnographic field work at central sites where practitioners today seek to render ‘the human genome’ meaningful, this talk describes efforts to forge concepts of public, private and property that can negotiate tensions between liberal democratic commitments to openness and access, and those of autonomy, privacy and property. It situates these efforts in broader debates over the nature of justice and knowledge in worlds shaped by global bio-informatic infrastructures. When is information personal, and thus justly subject to control by a person and their right to privacy? What happens to liberalism’s commitment to the right to control—to own—one’s body when even bodily substrates enter open-source idioms? What happens to knowledge when the individual knower who is responsible for cultivating data into knowledge is replaced by large-scale open informatics systems?

Genomics provides an important site for addressing these questions, and understanding the multiple competing values, knowledges and lives at stake in the contemporary tension between privacy and property on the one hand and the publicness and openness on the other. Arendtian readings of the importance of both the private and public realm provide a historic and theoretical lens that remind that we must not be tempted to cast one value out in favor of another, but to articulate what particular notions of public and private can respond to the postgenomic condition.