USS-SWC univie: summer school - Scientific World Conceptions

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  USS-SWC and Vienna

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Genomics: Philosophy, Ethics and Policy

Genomics emerged as a term, and then as a field, in the late 1980s, tightly tethered to conceptions of the Human Genome Project. But its genealogical roots tap into molecular biology and genetics. This class addresses questions raised by this nascent field, ranging from the theoretical to the practical and political. While we will begin with questions of epistemology and ontology - e.g., reductionism; the status of genomics' theoretical entities (e.g., genes); the status and interpretation of genomic models - history and analysis of social issues will be fundamental from the start. In this sense, we will be guided by one of the genomics' main innovations: the field's powerful demonstration that practices for knowing and governing the world come into being together. The class explores cases where these co-productive processes can be seen and analyzed: debates over how and whether genomic analyses should be used to determine ancestry and race; the ascendance of genomics in parallel to commercial biotechnology; patenting and ownership of DNA molecules, methods, and data; and efforts to truly engage people in scientific and policy decisions about what is done with their data. It also will examine notions of 'the public understanding' of genetic causation, and how these notions fundamentally shape the constitution of genomic research. We end with questions about what direction we are going, and where we might instead like to go. We take our charge from Lao Tzu, who said: "If you don't change direction, you may end up where you're headed."

Specific Topics:

Identities of "the gene"
What is genetic information (a metaphor in search of a referent)?
What is genomics? A story of co-production
Race, difference, and genomics
Patents and ownership
Genomics amidst globalization and nation states
Beyond bioethics
Genomics and its public
The post-genomic world
Where are we headed?

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