Biological Ethics and Controversies.

Biological Ethics and Controversies.  This week is NOT about “anthropologists gone wild;” rather, it is using anthropology to reply to profoundly controversial turns in genetic and biological research and the application of commercial DNA testing. It is the next in a series of activities called “Public Anthropology” that we will do this semester, inspired by Margaret Mead’s engagement with wider publics – not just other anthropologists. The world, it seems, could benefit from a more anthropological perspective. What is anthropology, what kinds of questions or issues does it raise for you, and how are the skills applicable? What is the “Big Question” that interests you? This is what we are ultimately getting to. Objective: To think about the holistic approach using science, emergent controversies, and belief as a springboard; examine the benefits of bringing anthropological perspectives and methods outside of the academy Outcome: Discussing – and writing about – the ethics, benefits, and pitfalls of bringing an anthropological approach to wider publics and controversial debates. First, read the following: 1. Bolnik (2007) Actions Genetics: The Science and Business of Genetic Ancestry 2. Lee (2009) Actions The Illusive Gold Standard in Genetic Ancestry Testing 3. Review of Henrietta Lacks (Links to an external site.) story from the New York Times important for understanding what happens to a person’s biological material once it leaves their body ( 4. Popular media article on the effects of DNA testing (Links to an external site.) on self identity and other outcomes, from The Guardian, a London-based paper ( In one OP-ED of appx. 700-800 words, address the following questions based upon your course knowledge and this week’s readings. See below for OP-ED Writing Guidelines: In the format of an editorial OP-ED (opinion piece), make an argument to the general public about genetics, idenity, ethics, and the serious implications of commodified DNA testing. You could think of this as answering, from a holistic anthropological standpoint, the following questions: -Why are these tests so popular (ie. what do people “think” they’re getting from them)? -What happens once the results are back (i.e., claims of indigeneity and tribal affiliation, changes to identity, conflicting results with family history, perceived health risks, etc.) -Why might such tests be more harmful to minorities/ how do they reinforce racial constructs? How are the perceived “benefits” masking larger sociocultural and political-economic issues? The standard Activities Rubric will be used to grade this exercise. 1. Anthropological Perspectives (4) Exhibits awareness and understanding of ethnocentrism, cultural relativity, holism, contexts, and power in all activities; 2. Course Concepts (4) Directly and appropriately utilizes course terminology in all writing and activities; 3. Examples (4) Describes and utilizes appropriate examples from course materials (readings, films, individual fieldwork, media sources); 4. Follows Instructions (4) Is this a compare/contrast discussion? Did you find outside sources if required? Were you supposed to upload an image? Follow the directions!! And put in some effort; 5. Writing, Style, Organization (4) Writing is always important. The writing can be indicative of your effort.

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