Genetic Nature/Culture: Anthropology and Science beyond the Two-Culture Divide

By Alan H. Goodman; Deborah Heath et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 4
The Commodification of
Virtual Reality

The Icelandic Health Sector Database
Hilary Rose

When newspapers around the world reported, “Iceland sells its people's genome, ” it read to many, not least Icelanders themselves, as if Brave New World had finally arrived. It is now clear that the remarkable events on this small Nordic island must be understood as part of a much wider shift. As the big pharmaceutical companies, venture capital, and the state gravitate toward predictive medicine and pharmacogenomics, Iceland maybe the first example of pharmacogenomics in action, but unquestionably it is not going to be the last.

There is a distinct irony to recent developments in pharmacogenomics: This potentially immense innovation, actively pursued by global pharmaceutical companies and venture capital, requires as its precondition a universal health care system. 1 Only the old welfare states have universal health care records. Not for the first time does the relationship between the organizational structures of health care provision and the development of genetics come into visibility and importance. 2 For pharmacogenomics, only the old welfare states offer what they speak of in their depoliticized language as a “good” population. 3

Although the conflict over the Icelandic database broke in 1998, its origins go back to the summer of 1994. Then two Harvard-based clinical neurologists, the Icelander Kari Stefansson and his U. S. colleague Jeff Gulcher, were visiting Iceland to collaborate in a study of multiple sclerosis (MS) with an Icelandic neurologist, John Benedikz. The research project was to look for a possible genetic predisposition to the disease. In “helicopter science” mode, the researchers flew in during the summer, secured as many samples as possible from patients and their families, and then returned to the Medical School at Harvard to do the lab work. 4

Stefansson's ambitions and vision, however, were much wider than search-

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Genetic Nature/Culture: Anthropology and Science beyond the Two-Culture Divide
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Contents v
  • Illustrations vii
  • Foreword ix
  • Preface and Acknowledgments xv
  • Introduction - Practice, Discourse, and Critique 1
  • Notes *
  • References 18
  • Part 1 - Nature/culture *
  • Section A - Human Populations/genetic Resources *
  • Chapter 1 - Indigenous Peoples, Changing Social and Political Landscapes, and Human Genetics in Amazonia 23
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • Chapter 2 - Victor Mckusick's Fieldwork with the Old Order Amish 41
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • Chapter 3 - Technologies of the Self in the Age of Genetics 58
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • Chapter 4 - The Icelandic Health Sector Database 77
  • Notes *
  • References 93
  • Section B - Animal Species/genetic Resources *
  • Chapter 5 - Life After Dolly 95
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • Chapter 6 - Webs of Action in the World of Dog Genetics 111
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • Chapter 7 - The Human Genome in Evolutionary and Cultural Context 132
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • Part 2 - Culture/nature *
  • Section A - Political and Cultural Identity *
  • Chapter 8 - Transnationalized Gene Landscapes in the Biodiversity and Transgenic Food Networks 155
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • Chapter 9 - Genome Scientists as Sociocultural Entrepreneurs 176
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • Chapter 10 - Reflections and Prospects for Anthropological Genetics in South Africa 200
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • Section B - Race and Human Variation *
  • Chapter 11 - Implications for Disease Gene Mapping and Identity 219
  • Notes *
  • References 230
  • Chapter 12 - A Molecular Genetic Perspective 234
  • Notes 254
  • References *
  • Chapter 13 - The Concept of Race in Science 258
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • Chapter 14 - Promise and Problems of Ancient Dna for Anthropology 278
  • Notes *
  • References *
  • Contributors 297
  • Index 299
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