DOI: 10.5281/zenodo.5714489

Programming the Future: Epigenetics, Normative Fictions, and Maternal Bodies

by Kevin Ryan

We have apparently transitioned to what has been described as a “postgenomic era”, and the spectre of biology is again haunting philosophy and the social sciences, but not necessarily as it has figured in the past. The emerging field of epigenetic research examines how experience “gets under the skin” and regulates gene expression, and is poised to reshape age-old debates on “nature v nurture”. However, as argued by critical science and technology scholars, epigenetics might also serve to reinforce extant forms of gendered and racialized inequality. The stage is thus set for a battle staged on the terrain of power/knowledge and at the intersection of science and philosophy. This article enters the fray by building on Sarah S. Richardson’s work on «maternal bodies» and the «epigenetic imaginary». Taking a genealogical approach, the article shows how the maternal body has become a means of programming the future, and how the scene is set for this to continue in tandem with “the new biology of adversity”.

Keywords: Epigenetics, Biology of Adversity, Biosocial, New Materialism, Post-genomics

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Kevin Ryan, Programming the Future Epigenetics, Normative Fictions, and Maternal Bodies