INTD Genetics, Identity and Popular Culture

There is no doubt that contemporary work involving the human genome is changing the way we think about who and what we are.  The guiding question for this course, then, is how is genomic science changing, challenging and complicating our collective sense of what it means to be human?  As an integral part of exploring this question, we will investigate how is it that we come to learn about genomic science in the first place.  For most of us, our understanding of genomic science is filtered through popular culture; we learn the "facts" about genomics through a variety of texts (mainstream science writing and journalism, popular fiction, film and television, etc.) that already provide a framework through which these facts are made to "make sense."  Such popular "texts" at once register and shape the public's understanding of and anxieties about profound social and cultural change.  This course is premised on the idea that our values and beliefs inhere in the verbal and visual images through which we communicate: the language we use (e.g. metaphors, grammatical constructions), the stories we tell, the pictures and visual technologies that are a part of our daily lives.  We rarely notice those devices, yet they structure our most basic thoughts. Thus, in this class we will attend to how the language, images and narratives emerging from human genomics influence the way we imagine our bodies, ourselves, our social responsibilities and the enterprise of science itself.

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