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Gendered geographies of genetic variation: sex, power and mobility in human population genetics

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Abstract:

This article explores the ways in which geographies of human genetic variation are increasingly differentiated in terms of gender, and the ideas of reproduction, sex, power and mobility that underpin their interpretation. It thus seeks to extend recent work on the ways in which the ideas of race and relatedness are being shaped by recent accounts of human genetic variation and evolutionary history within human population genetics by exploring the gendered and sexual imaginaries of this field. At the same time, it seeks to extend feminist geographical work on social reproduction by attending to the figuring of reproduction itself. The article focuses on accounts of the geographies of Y-chromosome variation and the differences between the geographies of Y-chromosome variation and mitochondrial variation, and explores the degree to which this work is underpinned by, and potentially reinforces, particular accounts of gender, sex and the reproductive strategies of women and men. More specifically, I argue that despite some differences between the perspectives of those involved, much of this work deploys a model of male sexual competition that is at the heart of claims about the universal and determined fundamentals of reproduction, and indeed all social life, within evolutionary psychology. Gendered geographies of human genetic variation are being used as evidence for hitherto asserted but unproven claims about human nature. This article is a critical feminist engagement with the renaturalisations of culture within this strand of human population genetics.

Keywords: ciencia popular; estudios de ciencia feministas; feminist science studies; genética de poblaciones; mobility; movilidad; popular science; population genetics

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/0966369X.2011.625085

Affiliations: Department of Geography,Queen Mary, University of London, London, UK

Publication date: August 1, 2012

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