Borders

I’ve haven’t posted anything in a couple of weeks. I’ve been busy trying to do some corrections to the first full-draft of my dissertation and then of course there was May Week in the midst of that. I am looking forward to having some more time to focus on strengthening my writing and thinking of life after Cambridge!

James Watson, co-discoverer of the DNA helix and Nobel Prize winner notably made the following comment in 2007:

I am inherently gloomy about the prospect of Africa. All our social policies [to Africa] are based on the fact that their intelligence is the same as ours- whereas all the testing says not really…there is no firm reason to anticipate that the intellectual capacities of peoples geographically separated in their evolution should prove to have evolved identically. (Hunt-Grubbe, 2007).

James Watson uses his credibility as a Scientist and phrases like “geographically separated in their evolution” and “their intelligence” in relation to “ours” to discuss created social markers of difference in “intellectual capacities” that map onto race. Statements like these alongside the political climate of the US and its stance on immigration get me thinking about borders. Borders we construct. There are imaginary borders and there are physical ones. There are borders all of us adhere to in some way (e.g. where the land meets the ocean) and there are borders that are used to displace, disempower, deconstruct communities and individuals. The “us” and the “them” the “here” and the “there” the “past” and the “present” – these are borders. Borders are sociopolitical, socioeconomic, sociocultural, racialized, and gendered–they denote belonging or exclusion.

Social categories and borders interact with understandings of genetics. The genetic revolution has decreased the cost of human genotyping “faster than Moore’s law predicts for the price of computer chips” (Conley & Fletcher, 2017). The increased availability of cheap genotyping-chips has resulted in the democratization of genetic information. No longer confined to the realm of academia, Americans are genotyping themselves in record numbers, using for-profit services like 23andMe, Navigenics, and Knome that claim to offer information about one’s ancestry or list an individual’s predispositions for disease and illness (Conley & Fletcher, 2017).

As genetics research increasingly contributes to understandings of human differences and behavior, there is a need to consider genetics research as power structure that has the potential to re-imagine the boxes and categories used to subjugate individuals. Genetic discourses have historically been used to ‘other,’ and distinguish between racial and socioeconomic groups. In the post-genomics era, I think this history sheds light on how current genetics research might influence contemporary understandings of race and socioeconomic status.

Our borders are being re-imagined. We haven’t begun to understand the extent of it.

 

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