||For the last decade, consumers have been able to purchase an increasingly wide array of genetic tests that promise answers to medical, genealogical, and forensic questions. These commercial genomic enterprises have their roots in scientific endeavors ranging from molecular anthropology to pharmacogenetics to informatics, and they are intersecting with public understandings of race, individual and group identity construction, medical treatments, and forensic investigations in intriguing ways. Moreover, they show that the “DNA mystique” has persisted as a powerful stimulus for both scientific imaginations and the market in the post-Human Genome Project era. However, as the multi-million dollar direct-to-consumer genomics industry continues to gain momentum and publicity, so do the complex issues it raises. There is an urgent need for interdisciplinary dialogue about the origins and contours of the market for such information. Collaboration among cultural anthropologists, biological anthropologists, and other social scientists is needed to assess (1) the social and cultural dimensions of this phenomenon, (2) the ways that genomic projects are both shaped by and shaping market forces, (3) the political economy of genomic information in a global context, and (4) the implications for the future of our discipline.
This panel will bring together a diverse set of scholars to consider the commercial dimensions and public consumption of genomics. In addition to the issues described above, we will explore the ways that commercial genomic services refigure ideas about race, kinship, identity, and citizenship, pose challenges to normative ethical (and regulatory) paradigms for biotechnology, and hold implications for university-industry relations. This panel will therefore enrich current understandings of the genomics market and its relation to anthropology. We hope this session will help to delineate novel and interdisciplinary avenues for future research that is also legible to policy makers, industry leaders, and the publics engaged by this commercial scientific phenomenon.