Remaking the Social: Biomedicine, Mental Illness and the New Epigenetics
A burgeoning area of developing research within the life sciences has begun to engage directly with the social. The gene, which was once heralded as the key to understanding human existence, disease and vitality, has recently been demoted by epigenetic research suggesting that the cellular environment in which it exists is highly susceptible to externally influenced modifications (Lock, 2013). Put simply, epigenetic research is the study of alterations in how a gene expresses itself according to a variety of internal chemical reactions as well as external environmental influences (Landecker and Panofsky, 2013). Additionally, breakthroughs in the brain sciences have pointed to similar testimonials: that the ‘neural architecture’ of the brain is not fixed by genetics, but is in a state of continuous reconstruction at a molecular level in response to both the environment and internal functioning (Rose and Abi-Rachet, 2013). These findings suggest that the body and its functions hold a great deal of plasticity – an ability to alter itself in response to changes in its internal and external environment.
3 – Health, Biopolitics & Social Inequality