Genopower: On Genomics, Disability, and Impairment

Foucault Studies (forthcoming)
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Since the completion of the human genome project in 2003, genomic sequencing, analysis, and interpretation have become staples of research in medicine and the life sciences more generally. While much ink has been spilled concerning genomics’ precipitous rise, there is little agreement among scholars concerning its meaning, both in general and with respect to our current moment. Some claim genomics is neither new, nor noteworthy; others claim it is a novel and worrisome instrument of newgenics. Contrary to the approaches of Foucault scholars in both camps, in this paper I utilize research in philosophy of disability to argue that genomics is indeed noteworthy as a unique form of biopower and that its primary function is to precisify impairments in contradistinction to disability. I call the force at play in this process genopower. Insofar as genopower gears into powerful cultural tropes of self-knowledge and self-care and affirms individualistic solutions to social issues, the socio-political effect of genomics with respect to disability—despite the aims of many of its practitioners—is indeed to normalize what Rosemarie Garland-Thomson calls “velvet eugenics.”
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First archival date: 2021-03-18
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