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Histories and Meanings of Epigenetics

  • Tatjana Buklijas

Abstract

The fast evolving field of epigenetics is currently generating interest and excitement, but also controversy. With its main proposition that environmental influences, from food to stress, can be rapidly inherited through molecular mechanisms that supplement or modulate information contained in DNA, some have come to see epigenetics as a bridge between social and natural sciences, reigniting the nature/nurture debate. Others, however, argue that epigenetics, while important, is part and parcel of genetics and not paradigm-changing. These contrasting views go along with opposing historical narratives and understandings of future promise of epigenetics. I examine these different histories and juxtapose these different meanings, to sketch how epigenetics came to high public prominence and what kind of larger developments in science and society this prominence indicates.

Notes

Acknowledgements

This chapter is an early output of the project titled ‘A history of the “epigenetic revolution”’, supported by the Royal Society of New Zealand Marsden Fund. I am grateful to the book editors for their valuable comments; to my Liggins Institute colleagues—in the first place Sir Peter Gluckman, Allan Sheppard, Sherry Ngo, Felicia Low and Alan Beedle, and many others—for numerous conversations about epigenetics over the years, and to Klaus Taschwer of Der Standard, Vienna, for an insight into media perceptions of epigenetics.

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Authors and Affiliations

  • Tatjana Buklijas
    • 1
  1. 1.University of AucklandAucklandNew Zealand

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