Journal article

Gene technology and its citizen-subjects

16 May 2006
Description

Within the recombinant DNA debate, a formative categorisation of gene technology has occurred by which matters of concern must be separated into either those that belong to nature or those that belong to society. With reference to the work of Ulrich Beck and Bruno Latour, I trace these separations through the lives of two objects of gene technology: a genetically modified bacterium and genetically modified canola. I argue that the categories, institutions and regulatory systems of gene technology that emerge along with these objects, are generative of a citizen-subject who, in order to participate in decision-making processes, must be able to dissect their concerns and allocate them appropriately either to nature or to society but not to both. Citizens do not neatly separate their concerns in this way and for many citizens the citizen-subject generated by gene technology is an alienating one. As a consequence, citizens are encouraged into a sub-politics to which governments must respond. This process of separations, citizen-subject formation and alienation is generative of a politics that undermines the legitimacy of gene technology and its institutions.

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2006
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