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The Material GeneGender, Race, and Heredity after the Human Genome Project$
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Kelly E. Happe

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780814790670

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814790670.001.0001

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Heredity as Ideology

Heredity as Ideology

Situating Genomics Historically

(p.23) 2 Heredity as Ideology
The Material Gene

Kelly E. Happe

NYU Press

This chapter constructs a historical narrative of genetics that draws on already published histories as well as original research, beginning with the eugenics movement of the progressive era, in which scientistic thinking enabled the belief that biology offered salvation from a range of social ills. It examines posteugenics research, especially that which explicitly distanced itself from politics by engaging in laboratory experimentation with insects and other nonhuman life forms and also adopted an atomistic, molecular view of biology. Nevertheless, the molecularization of biology introduced a worldview that was no less political, no less invested in particular social and economic arrangements. Heredity became a fixture of public discourse, a triumph of nature over nurture—the hereditarian thinking of the postwar era represented a commitment to the status quo precisely at a time when it was most vulnerable to the challenges of rising social movements.

Keywords:   history of genetics, eugenics movement, progressive era, postwar era, posteugenics research, molecuralization of biology, heredity

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