The Nomenclature Question: A Pre-History of the Human Genome Project Public Deposited

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  • February 26, 2019
  • Landress, Dana
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of History
  • This thesis narrates a prehistory of the Human Genome Project, beginning with the intellectual underpinnings of scientific advancement in the middle to late twentieth century. Long before official discussions about a microscopic genetic “map” of the human body arose within the scientific community in the 1970s, a way array of intellectuals - from the physical and medical sciences, as well as philosophers and ethicists - developed a growing interest in this seemingly impossible task. Their engagement with the abstract vision of a prospective map reveals a complex chronology of debates and discussions that now form a multidimensional history of the Human Genome Project (HGP). These histories are intrinsically related to the language used to describe and present the body in various scientific contexts. This thesis reconstructs a pre-history of the Human Genome Project, with language as a lens for perspective. Through this lens, one can trace the transformation of scientific language from a tool for intellectual momentum in mapping the molecular body to a pivotal instrument in defining a genetic sequence as a patentable product. While narratives about the body can constrain and reconfigure our perceptions of self, the outcome of these narratives is never pre-ordained, but is instead contingent upon discourses and their power to reconfigure paradigms about the body. In a world driven by science, we must reconsider what it means to have a body.
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  • In Copyright
  • Funding: Honors Undergraduate Research Fund
  • Funding: Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship
  • Necochea, Raúl
  • Bachelor of Arts
Honors level
  • Honors
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
  • 82

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