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GUEST LECTURE

Virtual Geographies of Belonging

This lecture draws on the article "Virtual Geographies of Belonging: The Case of Soviet and Post-Soviet Human Genetic Diversity" and explores human genetic diversity research east of what was the iron curtain. It follows the technique of ‘‘genogeographic mapping’’ back to its early Soviet origins and up to the post-Soviet era.

Abstract:

This article explores human genetic diversity research east of what was the iron curtain. It follows the technique of ‘‘genogeographic mapping’’ back to its early Soviet origins and up to the post-Soviet era. Bringing together the history of genogeographic mapping and genealogies of ‘‘nationality’’ and ‘‘race’’ in the USSR, I discuss how populations and belonging were enacted in late Soviet biological anthropology and human genetics.
While genogeography had originally been developed within the early Soviet livestock economy, anthropologists, public health scientists, and medical geneticists reanimated the technique in the late 1960s after the end of the Lysenko era and its ban on classical genetics. In the 1970s, population geneticists pursued a project to compile all genetic data on the USSR population, resulting in a ‘‘genogeographic atlas,’’ consisting of series of tables as well as maps projecting genetic markers onto geographic grids.
Following the post-Soviet trajectories of these maps, I examine the ways in which human genetic diversity studies realign with renegotiations of difference in today’s Russian Federation.
The exploration of the Soviet case of human genetic diversity research contributes to our understanding of the varied ways in which racializing discourses were entangled in the project of modernization.

Susanne Bauer is associate professor at the Centre for Technology, Innovation and Culture, University of Oslo. Her research draws from STS as well as from history, sociology and anthropology of science. It has dealt in particular with health data infrastructures, the politics of categories and algorithms in epidemiology and addressed conceptual transformations in environmental health in the age of genomics. She has longstanding research collaborations with scientists in post-Soviet countries working on the aftermaths of nuclear exposures.

Through combined archival and ethnographic work, her work aims to historicize biomedicine, risk assessment and its calculative infrastructures, make visible and unpack sociotechnical arrangements and orderings enacted both locally and in global assemblages. More recently, she has embarked on a collective project on the intersections of life and technology and the hybrid ecologies at Frankfurt airport. Her current projects engage feminist technoscience studies and postcolonial science studies, contributing to debates in STS as diverse as digital STS and material semiotics, biopolitics and human-animal relations, postsocialism and technoscience east of what used to be the iron curtain.