The Promise (and Peril) of Epigenetics for Feminist Science Studies
Epigenetics, a field that some are calling a “new” paradigm in biology, offers a window of opportunity for feminist science studies to forge new, intersectional understandings of how the social and material are intertwined in the manifestation of becoming. Research in epigenetics suggests that socially constructed lived experiences of race, class and gender intersect in and with the material body, in effect blurring the boundaries between inside and outside, social and material. For a generation of feminist scientists steeped in critique of a reductionist DNA-centric model, epigenetics seems to provide promising resources for reimagining a natureculture of embodied being. Yet, this potential will not emerge out of science alone. Intersectional feminist perspectives and approaches are needed to reimagine an epigenetic future that does not repeat and reify the essentialist, oppressive accounts of mother-blaming in its multiple intersectional manifestations that the sciences of genetics have produced in the past. Feminist participation in further conceptualizing and interrogating the socio-material intra-actions and agency that shape health outcomes along intersectional axes is not just intellectually compelling; it may also provide important avenues for feminist social change, through the reshaping of the cuts and contours that define science within and beyond its borders.
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