, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 47–65 | Cite as

Populations as brands in medical research: placing genes on the global genetic atlas

  • Aaro TupaselaEmail author
Original Article


The collection, use, and distribution of human tissue samples have stressed the new pathways in which human body parts and related information are becoming productive. This article probes the question of how the concept of branding can elucidate the way historico-cultural narratives of origin and authenticity are coming to play an increasingly important role in leveraging populations as new types of scientific products. Using the notions of heritage and identity, geolocation, and scientific recognition, I argue that the branding of populations represents, not just novel ways of creating difference, but also provides new ways in which master narratives of population history are created. The processes by which genetic specificities of various populations and their concomitant samples are made productive vary, yet illustrate how narratives of genetics, national identity, group identity, and uniqueness in the medical sciences become intertwined with notions of productivity and bioeconomic potential.


branding population genetics bio-economy medical research biobanks classification Finnish Disease Heritage 



This work was supported by the Global Genes, Local Concerns project funded by the University of Copenhagen’s 2016 Excellence Programme for Interdisciplinary Research, as well as the Academy of Finland. I am grateful to Klaus Hoeyer and three anonymous referees for the helpful comments on earlier versions of the paper.


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Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Medical Science and Technology Studies, Department of Public HealthUniversity of CopenhagenCopenhagenDenmark

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