Document Type

Article

Publication Title

Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences

Publication Date

2001

Abstract

‘Ideologies of Discrimination’ considers the implications of the new genetics for understandings of personhood and for understandings of the relationship between people in groups. In particular, the essay delineates and examines the emerging notion of a ‘genetic group’ and considers the social implications of redefining families, racial groups and ethnic groups through express, and often exclusive, reference to a shared genome. One consequence of such redefinition has been the justification and elaboration of stigmatizing images of and discrimination against such groups—especially those, such as Jews and African-Americans, that have long been identified with specific somatic characteristics. A few worrisome trends begin to emerge in the response of the American legal system to the notion of genetic groups. Among these is a shift in the locus of privacy and identity from the autonomous individual to the genetic group. This shift challenges (and threatens) long-standing Western values (including equality and liberty) that depend upon the ideological centrality of autonomous individuality.

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