Beware the intersections: developing a feminist lens for discussions of genome editing
Stevienna de Saille
(University of Sheffield)
Paper short abstract:
This paper explores whether we can use current discussions on responsible innovation to help develop a feminist intersectional lens through which to examine responsibility, inclusion and innovation in the field of human genome editing.
Paper long abstract:
Feminist approaches to reprogenetic technologies have always been a delicate balancing act between the need to increase individual women's control over their lives, and the need to account for the social consequences of decisions made in aggregate. While responsible innovation (RI) opens spaces to integrate a feminist ethics of care into discussions about emerging (particularly medical) technologies, innovation itself is rarely discussed within feminist political economy (FPE), and FPE's specific insights about production, reproduction and the intersections between race, gender, class are rarely drawn upon when interrogating the potential benefits and risks of new medical technologies, although women are deeply implicated in these pursuits as mothers, egg donors and potential patients. This paper explores whether we can use questions arising from what we have called the 'fourth quadrant' of the RI matrix, 'responsible stagnation', to develop an lens through which to examine responsibility, inclusion and innovation in the field of human genome editing. For this, I draw upon historical feminist activist knowledge practices in the domain of reproductive and genetic engineering (close reading of scientific and medical discourse, an emphasis on control rather than choice or rights, and a continued effort to keep women in the centre of the analytic frame) and upon the emerging principles of RS as a particular configuration of change in which restraint, living gently, and ethics matter more than contribution to economic growth.
Recombining life: sociotechnical intersections in the making of genome editing