The politics of suspects’ geo-genetic origin in France: The conditions, expression, and effects of problematisation

Abstract : Recently, genetics has given rise to changes in how people’s origin is conceived. Forensics has started using some of these changes in the shape of new DNA-based tests aimed at determining suspects’ geographic origin. This article analyses how recent practices in this field have been ‘problematised’ in France, in Foucault’s sense of the term, and gives substantial weight to the country’s historical and republican legacy. First, the launch of these genetic tests is examined, looking at the work of actors who helped create the preconditions for this problematisation but at the same time tried to deconstruct it. The paper goes on to focus on how this problematisation is expressed, questioning the arguments used particularly by its opponents who ground their stance in history, law, and science, while also invoking ethical and political concerns regarding data use. Finally, current state regulations on the matter are outlined, showing how ‘points of problematisation’ have been construed in terms of prohibition. The article concludes by underlining the internal tensions (the ‘knot’) of the problematisation process, showing how it highlights changes in contemporary notions of origin and the types of subjects it produces. More generally, the implications of this study for social science research on origin and on the life sciences are also discussed.
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Joëlle Vailly. The politics of suspects’ geo-genetic origin in France: The conditions, expression, and effects of problematisation. BioSocieties, Palgrave Macmillan, 2017, 12 (1), pp.66-88. ⟨10.1057/s41292-016-0028-x⟩. ⟨hal-01666332⟩

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