Accepted Paper:

Biogenetic Belonging: Genetic Ancestry Testing in South Africa  

Author:

Laura Foster (Indiana University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper argues for a feminist postcolonial understanding of genetic ancestry testing in South Africa through a politics of belonging where simultaneous and contradictory narratives of biogenetic sameness, difference, and relatedness are deployed in the re-fashioning of the nation.

Paper long abstract:

STS scholars have given much attention to race and genetics - examining how genomics can reinforce race as biological (Marks 1995, Cooper, Kaufman, and Ward 2003, Duster 2003, Bolnick 2008) through technologies of admixture mapping (Rajagopalan and Fujimura 2012, Fullwiley 2008); genetic ancestry testing (PalmiƩ 2007); patent ownership (Kahn 2008); and the inclusion of racial categories generally even as such research purports to be anti-racist (Reardon 2005, 2012, Bliss 2012, PƔlsson 2012). Such insights are extremely valuable, but they can sometimes bolster quick assumptions that genetic ancestry testing inevitably reinforces race as biological.

Alternatively, through examining a 2007 genetic ancestry testing program in South Africa called the Living History Project (LHP), this paper asks how the LHP articulated narratives of biogenetic sameness and difference to fashion individual and collective belonging to South Africa through notions of race as both biological and social. Specifically, it charts the precise mechanisms by which LHP organizers sought to shape a postapartheid genome through subject recruitment and informed consent. In doing so, it draws upon feminist postcolonial scholarship that both theorizes the contradictions of marginalized subject positions under postcolonial conditions and emphasizes a critical feminist politics of belonging grounded in difference, sameness, fluidity, and relationality. In the end, this paper argues for a feminist postcolonial technoscience understanding of the LHP within a politics of belonging where simultaneous and contradictory narratives of biogenetic sameness, difference, and relatedness are deployed in the re-fashioning of the South African nation-state in both promising and problematic ways.

Panel T051
Feminist Postcolonial STS