Northwestern Events Calendar


Santiago Molina - "Social Control at the Edge of Science: Positive Deviance in Human Genome Editing"

When: Monday, February 6, 2023
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM Central

Where: University Hall, Hagstrum 201, 1897 Sheridan Road, Evanston, IL 60208 map it

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: FREE

Contact: Janet Hundrieser   (847) 491-3525

Group: Science in Human Culture Program - Klopsteg Lecture Series

Category: Lectures & Meetings



Santiago Molina, Northwestern University


"Social Control at the Edge of Science: Positive Deviance in Human Genome Editing" 


This lecture draws on archival, interview, and ethnographic data on genome editing to explore how the normative limits of new technologies are produced. Genome editing constitutes an exceptional case for analyzing mechanisms of social control in modern science as new normative limits have to be articulated and enforced. Recent instances of deviance and moral unhingement illustrate how technological development in the field is coupled with the blurring of these normative limits. Through an in-depth case study of the controversial first case of the birth of gene-edited babies in 2018, I argue that an opaque system of positive deviance can be found within the genome editing community that contrasts with the responsible and democratic mechanisms of social control that the community presents externally. To make this argument, I look at three sites of social control. First, I trace how the practices of self-governance surrounding genome editing produced a flexible patchwork of normative frameworks. Second, I draw from ethnographic data collected at genome-editing conferences and interviews with scientists linked to the "CRISPR babies" controversy to examine the crisis of legitimacy and the repair mechanisms that followed. Lastly, I draw from observations of ethics and misconduct trainings and of discussions in biomedical laboratories in the San Francisco Bay Area to examine the reproduction of this system of positive deviance.


Santiago J. Molina (he/they) grew up moving between the United States and central Mexico. He received his PhD in Sociology from the University of California, Berkeley and his BA from the University of Chicago. Their work sits at the intersections of science and technology studies, political sociology, sociology of racial and ethnic relations, and bioethics. On a theoretical level, Santiago’s work concerns the deeply entangled relationship between the production of knowledge and the production of social order.

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