, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp 239–256 | Cite as

Democratic Mis-haps: The Problem of Democratization in a Time of Biopolitics

  • Jenny Reardon


Following the stringent critiques of organizers of the Human Genome Diversity Project for excluding people from the initiative's early planning, subsequent administrators of high-profile efforts to study human genetic variation, such as the International HapMap Project, have made great efforts to stress the importance of including the people who are to be the objects of study in research design and regulation. Such efforts to ‘democratize’ genomics would appear to represent a positive development. However, in practice they have satisfied few as they fail to recognize the most basic lesson of the Human Genome Diversity Project debates: genomics raises questions not just about the inclusion of people, but about their very constitution. Positing concrete, stable subjects in society, current efforts to ‘democratize’ genomics fail to recognize that entangled in the fundamental questions about nature posed by this emergent form of technoscience are fundamental questions about the order and constitution of societies. The creation of sustainable and desirable forms of governance require us to come to terms with challenges posed to liberal democratic practices and values, such as inclusion, in an age defined partially by this mutual dis/ordering of nature and society.


biopolitics co-constitution genomics democratization publics race 



Research for this article was made possible by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF #0613026) and the GEN-AU (Genomeresearch in Austria) Program of the Austrian Federal Ministry of Education, Science and Culture ( Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation or GEN-AU. I would also like to thank Rebecca Herzig for ongoing discussions that are vital to the development of the line of thought animating this article. Barbara Prainsack, Ursula Naue and Jeantine Lunshof provided comments that helped to clarify the thinking in this article. Shannon Williams provided invaluable research assistance. Finally, I would like to thank the organizers of the ESRC's Genomics Forum for a chance to present an early version of this article.


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Copyright information

© London School of Economics and Political Science 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jenny Reardon
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of California Santa CruzSanta CruzUSA

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