The Emperor’s New Genes: Science, Public Policy, and the Allure of Objectivity

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23 Scopus citations


This article addresses the politics of genomics through three diagnoses: The first, diagnosing objectivity, discusses how researchers involved in a large-scale population mapping initiative distinguish genomics as relatively objective, compared to other forms of knowledge production. The second case, diagnosing nationality, examines an attempt by the UK Border Agency to use genetic ancestry testing to vet asylum claims. The third case, diagnosing indigeneity, considers how indigenous councils in southern Africa engage genomic science in their struggle for state recognition and rights. I argue that genomics’ allure of objectivity lends itself to such diagnostic attempts among both powerful and subaltern social actors and suggest that developing “technologies of humility” may provide one safeguard against the increasing uptake of genomics as the authority on human difference.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)130-142
Number of pages13
JournalAnnals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Sep 13 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • General Social Sciences


  • genomics
  • objectivity
  • public policy
  • race


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