Epigenetics is the study of changes in gene expression caused by mechanisms other than changes in the DNA itself. The field is rapidly growing and being widely promoted, attracting attention in diverse arenas. These include those of the social sciences, where some researchers have been
encouraged by the resonance between imaginaries of development within epigenetics and social theory. Yet, sustained attention from science and technology studies (STS) scholars to epigenetics and the praxis it propels has been lacking. In this article, we reflexively consider some of the ways
in which epigenetics is being constructed as an area of biomedical novelty and discuss the content and logics underlying the ambivalent promises being made by scientists working in this area. We then reflect on the scope, limits and future of engagements between epigenetics and the social
sciences. Our discussion is situated within wider literatures on biomedicine and society, the politics of “interventionist STS”, and on the problems of “caseness” within empirical social science.
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Document Type: Research Article
University of Edinburgh, Centre for Population Health Sciences, Old Medical School, Teviot Place, Edinburgh, EH8 9AG, UK
Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany
Lund University, Lund, Sweden
University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK
Publication date: December 1, 2013
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