2011Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.18452/19376
Epigenetics: Embedded bodies and the molecularisation of biography and milieu
The molecular biological field of epigenetics has recently attracted attention not only in biology, but also in the broader scientific community and the popular press. Commentators paint a very heterogeneous picture with some arguing that epigenetics is nothing but another aspect of gene regulation, and others enthusiastically proclaiming a paradigmatic shift in developmental biology. This article analyses a particular approach to environmental epigenetics – a subfield of epigenetics that is central to the recent excitement. The focus lies on an ethnographic analysis of research practices that enable a particular lab group to study the impact of different levels of context, for example, changes in the social and material environment, on epigenetic modification and thus phenotypic variation. The article argues that changes in the practice of doing epigenetic biology contribute to a molecularisation of biography and milieu, suggest the configuration of somatic sociality and produce a different concept of the body: the embedded body. This article concludes with a brief discussion of customary biology as a potential new research agenda at the interface of material and social inquiry.
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Published first as (erstmalig folgendermaßen erschienen): Jörg Niewöhner: “Epigenetics: Embedded bodies and the molecularisation of biography and milieu”. In: BioSocieties 6.3 (2011), pages 279–298. DOI: 10.1057/biosoc.2011.4