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Ancestry, Temporality, and Potentiality: Engaging Cancer Genetics in Southern Brazil

Sahra Gibbon
Current Anthropology
Vol. 54, No. S7, Potentiality and Humanness: Revisiting the Anthropological Object in Contemporary Biomedicine (October 2013), pp. S107-S117
DOI: 10.1086/671400
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/671400
Page Count: 11
Subjects: Anthropology
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Abstract

In this paper I examine the variety of ways potential is articulated, entailed, and produced in how the field of cancer genetics is being constituted as a domain of transnational research and an emerging site of health-care intervention in southern Brazil. Drawing on analysis of fieldwork in Brazilian cancer-genetics clinics, I explore how different expressions of potential come to inform dynamically the pursuit of prevention, care, and research as diversely scaled investments for those working and living with cancer-genetics knowledge and technologies. It illustrates how specific temporalities help to constitute and “abductively” frame the meaning of these different potentials particularly as this relates to a focus on ancestry. Colonial histories of migration, the embodied effects of dietary habits, or the moral failings of near and distant ancestors as well as promissory futures and the contingency of lived lives become at different times templates for identifying, materializing, and transforming how the potential of cancer genetics in Brazil is articulated. Potential is also expressed through an idiom of “choice” in different efforts to situate participation in cancer-genetics research as prevention or to negotiate access to basic public health. I explore how these expressions of cancer genetics as potential powerfully yet unevenly work to sustain knowledge practices as well as propel patients and their families into fledgling domains of clinical practice and scientific research. At the same time there is always an “excess of meaning” in these endeavors that make visible lines of fracture and disjuncture in collective efforts to make future histories of and from the pursuit of cancer genetics in southern Brazil.

Notes and References

This item contains 66 references.

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