Writing biology with mutant mice: the monstrous potential of post genomic life
Date: 1 August 2013
Social scientific accounts identified in the biological grammars of early genomics a monstrous reductionism, ‘an example of brute life, the minimalist essence of things’ (Rabinow, 1996, p. 89). Concern about this reductionism focused particularly on its links to modernist notions of control; the possibility of calculating, predicting ...
Social scientific accounts identified in the biological grammars of early genomics a monstrous reductionism, ‘an example of brute life, the minimalist essence of things’ (Rabinow, 1996, p. 89). Concern about this reductionism focused particularly on its links to modernist notions of control; the possibility of calculating, predicting and intervening in the biological futures of individuals and populations. Yet the trajectories of the post genomic sciences have not unfolded in this way, challenging scientists involved in the production and integration of complex biological data and the interpretative strategies of social scientists honed in critiquing this reductionism. The post genomic sciences are now proliferating points from which to understand relations in biology, between genes and environments, as well as between species and spaces, opening up future possibilities and different ways of thinking about life. This paper explores the emerging topologies and temporalities of one form of post genomic research, drawing upon ethnographic research on international efforts in functional genomics, which are using mutant mice to understand mammalian gene function. Using vocabularies on the monstrous from Derrida and Haraway, I suggest an alternative conceptualisation of monstrosity within biology, in which the ascendancy of mice in functional genomics acts as a constant supplement to the reductionist grammars of genomics. Rather than searching for the minimalist essence of things, this form of functional genomics has become an exercise in the production and organisation of biological surplus and excess, which is experimental, corporeal and affective. The uncertain functioning of monsters in this contexts acts as a generative catalyst for scientists and social scientists, proliferating perspectives from which to listen to and engage with the mutating landscapes, forms of life, and languages of a post genomic biology.
College of Life and Environmental Sciences
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