Hyperdiagnostics: Postcolonial Utopics of Race-Based Biomedicine

Department of Anthropology, History, and Social Medicine, University of California, San Francisco, CA 94143-0850, USA.
Medical Anthropology (Impact Factor: 1.88). 07/2009; 28(3):285-315. DOI: 10.1080/01459740903073554
Source: PubMed


The expansion of biomedical research into countries outside the United States and Western Europe is positing new biological links between populations based on race. This expansion includes six international projects occurring in Barbados, premised on the idea that the population is genetically representative of other black people. Based on ethnographic research tracking one such study, a genetics of asthma project, this article explores the ways Caribbean meanings of ethnicity and illness are reworked as Barbadian state medical practitioners become involved in facilitating the international genetics research on race and disease. As the state attempts to participate in an imagined future of genetic medicine, the hyperspecificity of genetic technologies create new medical meanings of race and disease. These changes rely on a paradoxical response by medical practitioners toward the high technology American genetic research as both authoritative and inapplicable, creating unexpected etiologies of illness and ethnicity.

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