Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard

Harvard Kennedy School of Government | Harvard University

Science, Identity, and Ethnicity: States and Citizens in Global Knowledge Regimes

Nadia Abu El-Haj

Barnard College and Columbia University

April 24-25, 2014, 5:00pm-7:00pm, 9:00am-5:00pm
William James Hall 1550/Belfer Case Study Room (CGIS South, S020)


With recent advances in the biosciences, such as second-generation genomic sequencing, advanced techniques in assisted conception, and the prediction of inheritable diseases, many aspects of individual identities— from ethnicity to genealogy to disease susceptibility— have been problematized. DNA is now being “read” by scientists to articulate a molecular basis for many historical and social phenomena, such as individuals’ membership in ethnic or national groups, as well as renewing older concerns about social control of populations through genetics. But what do these new kinds of genetic readings do for states and their citizens? To what extent have the genetic sciences expanded or circumscribed the ways of authorizing ethnic and national belonging? How has research in population genetics and human biogeography affected legal and political rights to citizenship, and territorial disputes? Are biological sciences, technologies, and society entangled to the point of being co-produced, and if so in what ways? This symposium tackles these questions from a global perspective, with the hope of fostering dialogue across disciplinary divides and geographical regions.

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