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ANTHRO 41: Genes and Identity (AFRICAAM 41, CSRE 41A)

In recent decades genes have increasingly become endowed with the cultural power to explain many aspects of human life: physical traits, diseases, behaviors, ancestral histories, and identity. In this course we will explore a deepening societal intrigue with genetic accounts of personal identity and political meaning. Students will engage with varied interdisciplinary sources that range from legal cases to scientific articles, medical ethics guidelines, films, and anthropological works (ethnographies). We will explore several case studies where the use of DNA markers (as proof of heritage, disease risk, or legal standing) has spawned cultural movements that are biosocial in nature. Throughout we will look at how new social movements are organized around gene-based definitions of personhood, health, and legal truth. Several examples include political analyses of citizenship and belonging. On this count we will discuss issues of African ancestry testing as evidence in slavery reparations more »
In recent decades genes have increasingly become endowed with the cultural power to explain many aspects of human life: physical traits, diseases, behaviors, ancestral histories, and identity. In this course we will explore a deepening societal intrigue with genetic accounts of personal identity and political meaning. Students will engage with varied interdisciplinary sources that range from legal cases to scientific articles, medical ethics guidelines, films, and anthropological works (ethnographies). We will explore several case studies where the use of DNA markers (as proof of heritage, disease risk, or legal standing) has spawned cultural movements that are biosocial in nature. Throughout we will look at how new social movements are organized around gene-based definitions of personhood, health, and legal truth. Several examples include political analyses of citizenship and belonging. On this count we will discuss issues of African ancestry testing as evidence in slavery reparations cases, revisit debates on whether Black Freedman should be allowed into the Cherokee and Seminole Nations, and hear arguments on whether people with genetic links to Jewish groups should have a right of return to Israel. We will also examine the ways genetic knowledge may shape different health politics at the individual and societal level. On this count we will do close readings of how personal genomics testing companies operate, we will investigate how health disparities funding as well as orphan disease research take on new valences when re-framed in genetic terms, and we will see how new articulations of global health priorities are emerging through genetic research in places like Africa. Finally we will explore social implications of forensic uses of DNA. Here we will examine civil liberties concerns about genetic familial searching in forensic databases that disproportionately target specific minority groups as criminal suspects, and inquire into the use of DNA to generate digital mugshots of suspects that re-introduce genetic concepts of race.
Terms: Win | Units: 3 | UG Reqs: WAY-ED, WAY-SI | Grading: Letter (ABCD/NP)
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