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You are here: FRIAS Fellows Fellows 2019/20 Prof. Dr. Jenny Reardon

Prof. Dr. Jenny Reardon

University of California, Santa Cruz
Sociology and History of Science and Technology
External Senior Fellow
Alexander von Humboldt Fellow
June - July 2020

Room 02 019
Phone +49 (0) 761-203 97399
Fax +49 (0) 761-203 97451



  • Cornell University, Ithaca, New York. Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies, August 2002. M.A. in Science and Technology Studies 1998. General Examination Fields: Biology and the State; History of Race and Science; Foucault and Ideology.
  • University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas. B.A. in Political Science, B.S. in Biology, May 1993.

Selected Positions

  • Professor of Sociology and Faculty Affiliate of Biomolecular Science and Engineering, University of California, Santa Cruz, July 2014-Present.
  • Director, Science and Justice Research Center, University of California, Santa Cruz, Fall 2011-Present.
  • Associate Professor of Sociology and Faculty Affiliate of Biomolecular Science and Engineering, University of California, Santa Cruz, July 2009-Present.
  • Assistant Professor of Sociology and Faculty Affiliate of Biomolecular Science and Engineering, University of California, Santa Cruz, July 2005-June 2009.
  • Assistant Research Professor of Women's Studies, and Scholar of Genome Sciences and Policy, Duke University, Fall 2004-Fall 2005.

Selected Publications

  • Reardon, Jenny. 2005. Race to the Finish: Identity and Governance in an Age of Genomics (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University).
  • Reardon, Jenny. 2017. The Postgenomic Condition: Ethics, Justice, Knowledge After the Genome (University of Chicago).
  • Reardon, Jenny with Barbara Prainsack, Jeantine E. Lunshof, Herbert Gottweis, Richard Hindmarch and Ursual Naue. 2008. "Personal genomes: Misdirected precaution." 2008. Nature 456: 34-35
    Reardon, Jenny. 2013. "On the Emergence of Science and Justice." Science, Technology and Human Values 38[2]: 176-200.
  • Reardon, Jenny with Kim Tallbear. 2012. "Your DNA is Our History": Genomics, Anthropology, and the Construction of Whiteness as Property." Current Anthropology 53 (S5).

FRIAS Research Project

Interpretation in the Life Sciences Today: From Encode to Decode

Soon after completion of the Human Genome Project in 2003, genomics came under pressure to prove its practical relevance. While sequencing and as­sem­bling the nearly 3 billion nucleotides of the human genome was a tremendous scien­ti­fic and technical feat, it left unanswered the fundamental question: what does the sequence mean? Although a promise to decode, in reality the HGP succeeded in encoding life into bits and bytes. While in the wake of the HGP many genomics leaders sought to refocus their field on the problem of interpretation, still today very little sustained critical attention focuses on this core concern. This project seeks to address this critical lacuna first through focusing on the practical question:  How does interpretation in genomics work?  What do genome scientists mean by hypo­thesis-free research?  Is it, for example, possible to not know something about history and to use genomics to do historical research?  What assumptions do genome scientists make in their research designs and practices?  What interpretive infrastructures do they mobilize to make sense of genomic data?  Second, the project assesses the meaning and effects of these interpretive practices in light of the history of knowledge production in the life sciences. Historically, biological interpretation arose from direct observation of living organisms.  However, today, one can be a life scientist and never look at a living organism.  Indeed, one can be a life scientist and never collect any data.  One can work instead with the bundled data of others, where the circumstances of collection are not always well characterized.  When data derives from sources many times removed from living organisms, and is produced my machines and algorithms, what problems of interpretation—and thus knowledge and justice—arise?  Finally, the project addresses the particular character of these problems through a focus on the challenge of interpreting human genomic variation data.  Increasingly, medical institutions and law enforcement agencies seek to collect and use this data.  Yet questions about how it should be ordered and interpreted is hotly debated.  A cross comparative analysis of the debates in the United States and in Germany will reveal the deeper questions of knowledge and justice at stake.  Problems of interpreting the borders and responsibilities of the nation-states today are increasingly inseparable from genomics’ problems of interpretation. The project seeks to clarify the questions of belonging, credibility and authority that result.