by Heather Dewey-Hagborg
“As I’ve examined forensic DNA phenotyping closely and deconstructed its underlying logic, I’ve found a set of problematic assumptions. The assumption that identity is biological, and that characteristics like gender and race can be read from the body, quantified with percentages, labeled as typologies, and transformed into visible characteristics. The assumption that a set of stereotyped representations of race and gender reflect the categories assigned by their coder. The assumption that pure, unadmixed ancestral populations have ever existed, and exist now in contemporary populations.
There are other ways of approaching phenotyping that yield less dramatic results but are firmly rooted in genetics instead of stereotyping. But even the most scientifically grounded and ethically implemented approach to phenotyping will always be inherently limited, as the genotype/phenotype relationship is a complex one modulated by interaction with the environment, age, lifestyle, injury, and self-modification.”
“If we are indeed entering a future of genetic surveillance, it is the complexities, limits, biases, and weaknesses of these new technologies we need to excavate. To do so, we need a multifaceted and transdisciplinary approach blending art, science, theory, and hands-on experimentation. The media will talk about how it all works, but to fully understand, to appropriately educate others, to devise suitable policies, and to form strategies of resistance, we need to know how it breaks.”
From The New Inquiry