Lecture: Risky Genes: Genetics, Breast Cancer, and Jewish Identity

Risky Genes: Genetics, Breast Cancer, and Jewish Identityrisky genes
Dr. Jessica Mozersky

Date/Time/Location: 4:00 p.m., April 10, Lovejoy 215

Ashkenazi Jews have the highest known population risk of carrying specific mutations, known as the “Ashkenazi mutations,” in the high risk breast cancer genes BRCA1 and BRCA2. While many populations have been associated with an increased risk of genetic disease, Ashkenazi Jews are the most prominent subjects of genetic re- search. This may seem paradoxical given their history of discrimination, which included claims of biological difference and inferiority. Using qualitative ethnographic data with high risk Ashkenazi women living in the UK, this talk will explore the ways in which genetic knowledge about hereditary breast cancer risk can actually reiterate collective identity. Genetic narratives about disease risk are related to the reproductive history of Ashkenazi Jews while simultaneously raising concerns about the consequences for future generations. More recent findings of supposedly “Ashkenazi” mutations in other apparently non-Jewish populations highlight the complexities when population and medical genetics intersect.

JessicaMozersky_picDr. Jessica Mozersky is a Mellon postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Anthropology at the New School for Social Research. She received her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from University College London. Her book Risky Genes: Genetics, Breast Cancer, and Jewish Identity appeared with Routledge in 2012.

This talk is sponsored by Science, Technology and Society in affiliation with Jewish Studies, the Department of Biology, and the Interdisciplinary Studies Division, and co-promoted by the Department of Anthropology.
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