Noah Tamarkin

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Ohio State U.

Grant number

Gr. 9303

Approve Date

April 19, 2016

Project Title

Tamarkin, Dr. Noah Miralaine, Ohio State U., Columbus, OH - To aid research on 'Juridical Genetics: Scientific Citizenship and Genetic Justice in South Africa'

Preliminary abstract: Genomic science has become increasingly important as a means to know the past and to pursue rights and justice in the present. But how does DNA become socially, politically, and legally meaningful? How do differently situated people transform genetic data into genetic evidence and what are the consequences for how science and citizenship are lived and experienced? This project addresses these questions through an ethnographic investigation of South Africa’s recently passed DNA Act, the national DNA database that it mandates, and related research and social justice activities. It examines how people who work in the varied spaces of non-governmental organizations, consultancy companies, universities, police stations, forensic laboratories, and courtrooms negotiate the implications and meanings of DNA as they together transform genetic data into genetic evidence. The objective of this project is to illuminate what happens when DNA becomes a prominent part of a legal framework in a postcolonial context where science, race, and law have all been deeply contested. This project advances anthropological theory by grounding questions about the social, political, and legal significance of genomics in active, relational struggles over cultural meaning, value, and practice. This project develops the concept ‘juridical genetics’ to theorize how the use of genetic technologies in criminal law potentially changes the direction and content of scientific research, the priorities of state security projects, and ultimately social and cultural understandings of embodied testimony and bodily truths, or in other words, what we look to bodies to tell us, and how reliable we expect such information to be. This project contributes to our understanding of how DNA is transforming power and politics in the contemporary world.