The Genome as Social Data

Emily Merchant, University of California, Davis
Dawn Warfield, University of California, Davis

In the last decade, social scientists across disciplines – including sociology, economics, psychology, and political science – have begun to consider the genome as an explanatory variable in a variety of social outcomes, from political participation to educational attainment. Facilitating the development of this new field of sociogenomics or social-science genomics is the addition of genome data to some of the large-scale long-term studies that social scientists have been utilizing for decades, such as the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, the Health and Retirement Study, and Add Health. This paper draws on frameworks from Science and Technology Studies to trace genomic data through the life-cycle of one of these longitudinal studies, from funding through collection, storage, dissemination, analysis, and ultimately into the public sphere and the policy arena, often by way of the media. It asks how the configuration of the genome as social science data has changed the nature of social scientific expertise, and how these new experts and their funders and audiences reconcile the reconceptualization of social outcomes as “phenotypes” with the looming spectre of eugenics, whose stigma social scientists have long sought to escape.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 224. Expertise IV: The Politics of Data