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National Biobanking in Qatar and Israel: Co-productions of Global Science and Ethnic Identity

Event Type: 
Seminar
Event Date: 
16 October 2018 - 4:00pm to 5:00pm
Venue: 
ASE 3-D Visualization Lab (N2-B1c-16c)
Speaker: 
Ian McGonigle
About the speaker: 

Ian is a scholar of Anthropology and Science, Technology, and Society. He specializes in contemporary Middle Eastern societies, with a focus on precision medicine technologies and scientific development. Ian has Ph.D.s in Biochemistry (Cambridge 2010) and Middle Eastern Studies and Anthropology (Harvard 2018). He also has a B.A. in Biochemistry from Trinity College Dublin (2007) and masters degrees in Cultural- and Social Anthropology from the University of Chicago (2013) and Harvard University (2015). He was awarded a prestigious postdoctoral fellowship by the Israel Institute in 2015, which he used to spend a year as a fellow at the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Tel Aviv University. He has also been an affiliate of Harvard’s Program on Science, Technology, and Society, since 2013. His 2015 co-authored article ‘Genetic Citizenship,’ which discusses the relationship between genetic definitions of Jewishness and Israel’s Law of Return, was the most read and highest impact article in the Journal of Law and the Biosciences. Ian has been awarded SG$1 million to launch a Science and Society Research Group at Nanyang Technological University as part of the prestigious Nanyang Assistant Professorship scheme which aims to bring elite faculty from around the world to build up Singapore’s academic standing.

About the event: 

Biobanks are a growing phenomenon in global biomedicine, as they are a key tool of precision medicine initiatives. National biobanks, however, collect data and biological material from populations in specific regions, and the knowledge that national biobanks yield can impact understandings of identity, origins, and belonging. Scholars in the social study of science have developed the concept of ‘co-production’ to reveal the relationships between scientific knowledge, technology, and the broader socio-political context. Drawing on ethnographic work and documentary analysis examining the Israeli- and Qatari national biobanks, I find that these two Middle Eastern biobanks aim to contribute to global biobanking trends, while at the same time they reinforce local ethnic and national identities. The Israeli biobank reflects pre-existing ethnic identities in Israeli society, while the Qatari biobank predominantly emphasizes the emergent national character of the Qatari population. Through a comparative analysis of the co-production of global biobanking and ethnic identities in Israel and Qatar, this article demonstrate that biobanks are a rich site for tracking emergent national identities in the Middle East region.