Body and Society 12 (4):53-71 (2006)

The use of informatic metaphors and models derived from mid-20th-century cyberscience in molecular biology has been the subject of much controversy. Many social critics have argued that informatic discourses implicitly privilege a disembodied or implicitly masculine conception of life that is most fully realized in contemporary genomics. In this paper, I offer a different perspective on these issues by returning to the 18th-century work of Gregor Mendel, who conducted a series of experiments that are generally regarded as having laid down the basic rules of heredity underlying genetic science. I attempt to show that a nascent informatic understanding of the body is already present in Mendel’s work, and that the implications of his approach for the politics of gender and social life are much more ambiguous than is generally recognized. More specifically, I argue that the meaning of ‘sex’, and of its relation to the organic body, is implicitly at stake in Mendel’s thought. I suggest that his text contains certain unresolved questions of sexual propriety that are today still being worked out in the context of contemporary genomics.
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DOI 10.1177/1357034x06070884
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Origins of Mendelism.Robert Cecil Olby - 1985 - Journal of the History of Biology 20 (1):132-133.

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