We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

The Material Gene

Gender, Race, and Heredity after the Human Genome Project

Kelly E. Happe

Publication Year: 2013

In 2000, the National Human Genome Research Institute announced the completion of a “draft” of the human genome, the sequence information of nearly all 3 billion base pairs of DNA. In the wake of this major scientific accomplishment, the focus on the genetic basis of disease has sparked many controversies as questions are raised about radical preventative therapies, the role of race in research, and the environmental origins of illness. In The Material Gene, Kelly Happe explores the cultural and social dimensions of our understandings of genomics, using this emerging field to examine the physical manifestation of social relations.
Situating contemporary genomics medicine and public health within a wider history of eugenics, Happe examines how the relationship between heredity and dominant social and economic interests has shifted along with transformations in gender and racial politics, social movement, and political economy. Happe demonstrates that genomics is a type of social knowledge, relying on cultural values to attach meaning to the body. The Material Gene situates contemporary genomics within a history of genetics research yet is attentive to the new ways in which knowledge claims about heredity, race, and gender emerge and are articulated to present-day social and political agendas.
Kelly E. Happe is assistant professor of communication studies and women’s studies at the University of Georgia. 

Published by: NYU Press

Cover, Title Page, Copyright

pdf iconDownload PDF (173.1 KB)
pp. 1-7


pdf iconDownload PDF (70.8 KB)
pp. vii-9

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (78.0 KB)
pp. ix-xi

I count myself lucky that this book was mostly a labor of love and not just, well, labor. I have many people to thank for that. First, I’d like to thank Carol Stabile for many years of mentoring, support, and friendship. Her work on the intersection of feminism, technology, and political economy proved...

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (78.6 KB)
pp. xiii-xv

On January 11, 2008, I lost my good friend Chet Meeks to colon cancer. Chet was, without a doubt, one of the smartest, most talented scholars I’ve had the good fortune to know. I learned a great deal from him over the years. Chet was just thirty-two when his cancer was first diagnosed; he died two years...

read more

1. Ideology and the New Rhetoric of Genomics

pdf iconDownload PDF (184.7 KB)
pp. 1-21

In a 1999 article in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, a surgical team describes the case of “A.H.,” a patient who undergoes an eleven-hour operation to remove her breasts, ovaries, and uterus. The surgery also included the reconstruction of breasts using skin and tissue from various parts...

read more

2. Heredity as Ideology: Situating Genomics Historically

pdf iconDownload PDF (311.7 KB)
pp. 23-59

Two years ago I attended a panel discussion on epigenetics, part of the University of Georgia’s “Darwin Days” series of events. I was interested in the panel because epigenetics exemplifies for me the stunning creativity and innovation of modern-day genomics research. Not surprisingly, Lamarckism...

read more

3. Genomics and the Reproductive Body

pdf iconDownload PDF (305.0 KB)
pp. 61-100

In 2008 National Public Radio interviewed Jessica Queller, author of the book Pretty Is What Changes. In the book and the interview, Queller describes the experience of testing positive for a BRCA mutation, one that conferred upon her an 87 percent chance of being diagnosed with breast cancer...

read more

4. Genomics and the Racial Body

pdf iconDownload PDF (270.2 KB)
pp. 101-138

In 2006 the New York Times published an article by Denise Grady titled “Racial Component Is Found in Lethal Breast Cancer.” The article opens with Grady’s summary of research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association: “Young black women with breast...

read more

5. Genomics and the Polluted Body

pdf iconDownload PDF (291.5 KB)
pp. 139-176

In 2002 I attended a conference at Columbia University titled “Human Genetics and Environmental Justice: A Community Dialogue.” Sponsored by the environmental justice organization West Harlem Environmental Action, the conference brought together geneticists, public health specialists, lawyers, and community...

read more

6. Toward a Biosociality without Genes

pdf iconDownload PDF (98.4 KB)
pp. 177-188

This book opened with the case of “A.H.,” a woman for whom a positive BRCA test made it thinkable to remove her breasts, ovaries, and uterus. The previous chapter ended with three vignettes of environmental social movement: civil rights and environmental justice, biomonitoring and chemical pollution...


pdf iconDownload PDF (296.8 KB)
pp. 189-242


pdf iconDownload PDF (236.9 KB)
pp. 243-272


pdf iconDownload PDF (975.9 KB)
pp. 273-287

About the Author

pdf iconDownload PDF (38.8 KB)
pp. 288-305

E-ISBN-13: 9780814744727
E-ISBN-10: 0814790674
Print-ISBN-13: 9780814790670
Print-ISBN-10: 0814790674

Page Count: 304
Publication Year: 2013