Accepted Paper:

Genome testing and the social ontology of childhood adoption  

Author:

Michael Arribas-Ayllon (Cardiff University)

Paper short abstract:

Our study explores the views and experiences of genome testing amongst two groups of professionals who play a central role in the adoption process - social workers and medical paediatricians.

Paper long abstract:

Molecular technologies are broadly techniques for the evaluation and clarification of life. Such techniques not only refigure biological and social relatedness but, in some cases, they are shape decisions through which lives are brought together into new social assemblages. Childhood adoption services in the UK are a particular site in which molecular technologies form part of medical assessment that intervene in the processes of creating families. In recent years, chromosome microarray (CGH) testing has become the first-line investigation for identifying a likely cause of a child's developmental, learning and behavioural difficulties. Our study explores the views and experiences of genome testing found amongst two groups of professionals who play a central role in the adoption process - social workers and medical paediatricians. Accessing these groups reveals a surprisingly complex landscape of actors who seek to control or mitigate the effects of genome testing. Amongst the entanglements of the legal apparatus, prospective adopters, social workers, and medical advisors, genome testing becomes much less a technology with stable properties than a technique for the production of ontological certainties and uncertainties. The clinical uncertainties of genomic findings are merely a component within a bureaucratic assemblage oriented to the rapid clarification of the child. Indeed, the whole 'adoption process' is one that creates a social ontology of the child that is highly resistant to uncertainties that might delay the child's prospects for adoption. Our findings have implications for considering the wider political, legal and multidisciplinary obstacles of recognising new forms of genomic uncertainty.

Panel V01
Promises and practices of biotechnologies