Experiencing the New Genetics
Family and Kinship on the Medical Frontier
"A thoughtful work of interest to lay folk and students as well as a variety of specialists in the social sciences and medical professions."—Choice
"Based on a broad range of primary and secondary data, [Finkler] has produced a nuanced and sophisticated analysis that illuminates the way scientific knowledge affects both the individual and society. While the book will probably be of greatest interest to social scientists, it should be a 'must read' for health professionals. After all, as she argues, 'Every time doctors take a family history, they reinforce the notion that there is an association between kinship and health,' an association that at best may comfort the individual but at worst 'forebodes a return to the era of eugenics.'"—Journal of the American Medical Association
Over the past several decades there has been an explosion of interest in genetics and genetic inheritance within both the research community and the mass media. The science of genetics now forecasts great advances in alleviating disease and prolonging human life, placing the family and kin group under the spotlight.
In Experiencing the New Genetics, Kaja Finkler argues that the often uncritical presentation of research on genetic inheritance as well as the attitudes of some in the biomedical establishment contribute to a "genetic essentialism," a new genetic determinism, and the medicalization of kinship in American society. She explores some of the social and cultural consequences of this phenomenon. Finkler discovers that the new genetics can turn a healthy person into a perpetual patient, complicate the redefinition of the family that has been occurring in American society for the past few decades, and lead to the abdication of responsibility for addressing the problem of unhealthy environmental conditions. Experiencing the New Genetics will assist scholars and general readers alike in making sense of this timely and multifaceted issue.
Kaja Finkler is Professor Emeritus of Anthropology at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.