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Biomedicine in museums

Hope, trust and troubled dreams: Workshop on the history and public understanding of contemporary human genetics, Barcelona, 30-31 May 2008

By October 23, 2007No Comments

The third meeting of the Genetics and Medicine Historical Network (GMHN; see more about the network in an earlier post here) will take place in Barcelona, 30-31 May 2008, focusing on the contemporary history and public understanding of human genetics:

Genetics increasingly dominates medical and public thought and practice. The transformation of genetic medicine from a marginal field in the 1950’s to a core activity of biomedicine is one of the most interesting developments in modern science. The rise of the new genetics with its promises and perils does affect the medical and public perception and communication around health and disease. The past decade we witness an increase and more intense focus on the genetic and biological basis for disease. How does this spill over to discussions in both medical and public spheres and what implications might be visible with regard to the expectations, trust and concerns regarding genetics and medicine? Accounting for genetic or hereditary factors in medicine is nothing new in itself. Since at least the eighteenth century scientists, doctors and patients have tried to establish links between heredity and disease. The meaning, visibility and legitimacy of these links have changed over time; from the brave new world of eugenics to medicine’s 21th century holy grail. Moreover, the traffic in ideas and practices between science, medicine and the public sphere has never been one-way but always reciprocal.

Most recently, doctoring healthy people on the basis of their genetic susceptibility has raised concerns of misuses of genetic information (e.a. stigmatization and discrimination) but has also created new expectations of its uses and prospective uses in medicine.

This invites to questions how understandings of genetics as a technological and social project have changed over time? The international workshop seeks to address this relatively neglected topic. The goal is to explore how beliefs, knowledges and practices regarding genetics have been distributed, exchanged, and co-produced, and to what effect.

The workshop will be organized around three themes:

  • Organizing public communication and genetic literacy
  • Public challenges: data sharing, risk and stigma
  • Understanding genetics as a technological and social project

Deadline of abstracts and poster presentations (max 250 words) and proposals for special sessions is 1 February, 2008. Inquiries to Toine Pieters or Martina Cornel (

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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