International Society for History, Philosophy, and Social Studies of Biology

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WEDNESDAY, JULY 8  /  11:00 - 12:30  /  DS-R510
Organized session / diverse format
Social epigenetics (2): Social and political implications

Maurizio Meloni (Institute for Advanced Study, United States); Eva Jablonka (Tel Aviv University, Israel)


Frances Champagne (Columbia University, United States)
Margaret Lock (McGill University, Canada)
Maurizio Meloni (Institute for Advanced Study, United States)
Giuseppe Testa (IEO and University of Milan (Fondazione Semm), Italy)

Epigenetics has important public implications and the potential to reframe significantly the uses of biological findings in the public sphere. This session, the second part of a broader double session on social epigenetics and its public implications, will focus on the following key-questions about the social circulation of epigenetic findings:

1) Will epigenetics be seen as positive factor of change and improvement because of its potential reversibility, or as the signature of a persistent disadvantage that characterizes certain social groups because of their repeated exposure to poor environments?
2) What are the concerns that epigenetic findings will be used to fuel a new rhetoric that targets pregnant women as a site of interventionist strategies?
3) What are the implications of epigenetics for the notion of race?
4) Will epigenetics findings result in an expanded notion of responsibility and in a moralization of specific behaviours (e.g. smoking, eating, and physical exercise)?
5) How will public policy initiatives based on epigenetic findings relate to (or differ significantly from) previous initiatives of social intervention based on genetic knowledge?
6 ) What is the historical legacy in public policy of notions of neo-Lamarckian inheritance?

Frances Champagne: Epigenetic interplay between mothers, fathers, and offspring: Implications of the legacy of parental experiences
Margaret Lock: Should Epigenetics be Politicized?
Maurizio Meloni: The trouble with Lamarck: Anti-Lamarckian arguments from Kroeber's anthropology to Soviet eugenics and their significance for today
Giuseppe Testa: From ants' colonies to working classes: molecular epigenomics and the digitization of social status