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Duana Fullwiley

Duana Fullwiley is a medical anthropologist who graduated in 2002 from UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco with her Ph.D. Fullwiley has conducted a multi-sited field research in the United States about the emergent technologies that measure human genetic diversity among populations and between individuals. Her main interest is how scientists promote genetic citizenship. This was Dr. Fullwiley’s second book project and explains exactly how U.S. political concepts of diversity, usually glossed as “race,” function in genetic recruitment protocols and study designs for research on complex diseases, “tailored medicine,” ancestry tracing, and personal genomics.

Dr. Fullwiley’s first book is The Encultured Gene: Sickle Cell Health Politics and Biologicalss Difference in West Africa. This book was written in 2011, and received the 2014 Robert B. Textor and Family Prize for Excellence in Anticipatory Anthropology from the American Anthropological Association, and the 2011 Amaury Talbot Prize for African Anthropology from the Royal Anthropological Institute. This book used data gathered from ethnographic fieldwork in Senegal, France, and the United States. She uses her fieldwork data and weaves together postcolonial genetic science, the effects of structural adjustment on health resources, and patient activism between Senegal and France to show how African sickle cell has been ordered in ethnic-national terms at the level of the gene.

She used to be a professor at Harvard and is now an associate professor at Stanford University teaching courses in medical anthropology and anthropology of science. She is currently in the research stages for her second book Tabula Raza: Mapping Race and Human Diversity in American Genome Science.

9 thoughts on “Duana Fullwiley

  1. kdteeter

    I looked her up and found an article that might be of interest in Harvard Magazine.

    I find it extremely interesting that she takes into account how her racial designation will differ based on the country she visits. It makes it difficult to see an appropriate way to universally link a specific race to certain biological markers. What would be the "major races" that scientists could agree to base these genetic profiles on? Even in going back to genes inherited from ancestral populations it seems difficult to determine where one might draw the lines between them to define their biologically distinct groups while keeping a recognizable racial separation.

  2. aeschmitt

    I found the article by Weiss and Long "Non-Darwinian estimation: My ancestors, my genes' ancestors" somewhat difficult to understand. However, I thought the article's focus on how some ways of defining ancestry end up categorizing human populations in a way that was too similar to race groups. I think it was very interesting how the article highlight how investigators that have no intention of distinguishing populations based on race, end up creating parental human groups that are very reminiscent of modern racial groups. I think it is very interesting to think about human population groups as all being a result of a mixture of their ancestral genes, rather than committing some people to population groups, or "races", and other being labeled as "mixes" of these population groups. The admixture structure based on certain parental groups was well represented in Figure 1 of the Weiss and Long paper. I was somewhat unclear of what the "structure" or "structure-like" program entailed, and I think it would be beneficial to break down what these programs actually represent.

    1. Maureen Coffey

      "... how her racial designation will differ based on the country she visits ..." This is actually an interesting point - in South Africa under Apartheid they had, what in Europe seemed completely arbitrary ideas about races, esp. when it came to e.g. Indians. When Graham Greene, the never-to-receive-the-Nobel-prize writer visited South Africa and was asked to designate himself on immigration as "white" "black" or "mixed" etc. (there were more differentiations if I remember correctly) he wrote "pink" and was denied entry. In Germany Adolf Hitler personally had the prerogative to declare certain few Jews and Poles as "Aryan" (only a few hundred in twelve years I believe). Race is a perception thing such as national traits. I once had the privilege of knowing an employment agent from Malta (as I discovered later). He worked in London and had perfect "received pronunciation" educated English. After him having landed me a well-paid assignment he eventually, as is customary, followed up with a lunch invitation to get some news on how I felt about his placement etc. Was I surprised - he was rather "pitch" black. Having worked in many "mixed" environments and also with companies in projects that spanned the globe so that I never knew the real "racial" roots of many email or telephone correspondents, I was not really surprised but he told me that in many cases clients had never recovered over the course of their meals. Now that certainly is psychological and racial distinctions are more "in the head" than anywhere else.

  3. ajcallery

    The articles we had to read for class made me think of how one sided the genetics of genome testing is towards the European ancestry and African ancestry. The first article by Weiss and Long was on the fact that these genome tests use a specific data set to compare the samples they get and that if other data sets are used instead then the information provide for ancestry may be different. I do not understand why these companies cannot use multiple data sets to determine a person’s ancestry and provide them so the person can see what is the most consistent. Also how unspecific the tests are was alarming. Being told your ancestry is Northern European is not specific at all and that seems frustrating to get results like this, I got some like this from 23andme and it is just weird.
    The article by Fullwiley was really interesting because I was wondering how geneticist addresses the issue of race and this revealed that. I thought the article went into great depth and provided ample information for why the geneticists still use racial terms when identifying the people. The reasoning they use them seems valid to me, but just like anthropologist they run into the problem of how the information that is provided is interpreted and used. It seems that the issue is not as much with the geneticist using the terms, but with the publics interpretations and misuse of the information to support their racists ideals.
    After doing the readings for this week I started to think about the racial issue and how in the article by Fullwiley there are geneticists who want to bring back racial classifications when looking at genetics. I found an article that looked at how genetics and the idea of genetic diseases like sickle cell and cystic fibrosis. In the paper they tested the hypothesis that if the readings have racial terms or specifics with connections to certain groups like sickle cell with African Americans and cystic fibrosis with Jewish heritage that increases racial stereotypes in adolescents. In order to test these eight graders in a private school in California bay area were used as the sample population. The students were between 12 and 14 and 53% male. Ethnically they self identified as 67% white, 9 % mixed, 7% Hispanic, 7% African-American, 7% Asian- American.
    To test this the researchers took an exert from the biology text of genetics and created an experimental and control text for the students to read. The experimental texts kept terms such as African-American and Caucasian in the text, while the control group terms were switch to more general terms like people. The students were given a pre-test to assess there racial thinking before the readings and after the readings. The pre and post-test involved race conception scale (RCS) and genetically based racism instruments (GBRI). The students who read the experimental passage had higher RCS and GBRI scores. These higher scores support the hypothesis that the information given in the text can alter the way an adolescent’s prior views on race. The students also had to write a post reading reflection. These post-reading reflections only contained information about race when the students had read the experimental passage. Two of the student’s response’s showed the researchers that the student’s opinions actually changed from previously not thinking that race determined disease association to holding a belief that race was a determinant.
    The researches also tested to see if the students had a prior base knowledge of heredity that the experimental passage would not alter their views on race. This was tested by using the understanding of recessive monogeneic diseases (URMD) variable with the other tests. High scores in this variable mean the student understand heredity. This variable was compared to the students post reading reflections. When compared it was seen that students with higher URMD wrote reflections on heredity, which show understanding of the concepts, while low scores also had reflections that did not understand heredity, even after reading the experimental passage. This supports the idea that if students understand heredity it does not matter the passage that is given.
    I found this passage interesting because it related to the race concept that was brought up with genetics and the scientists we had to read. As some scientists want to continue to use these racial terms in their work it may start to appear more often in the literature that students will learn. Shown by the article if the students do not have an understanding of heredity this may influence the racial opinions of students. This could create an environment were racism may become more common.

    Donovan, B.M. (2013). Playing with fire? The impact of the hidden curriculum in school genetics on essentialist conceptions of race. Journal of research in science teaching, 51: 462-496.

  4. Patrice

    From Fullwiley's article I felt the section "The Public and the Political" was most interesting. It's hard to really understand where the scientist were coming from in this section because race still doesn't seem to have a universal definition. Yes, I know that people from ancient, different geographic locations tend to have differences between other populations ...but is that race? My race is black, but I know that I have not only African ancestry but European and a few others types as well.

  5. Justin Ferguson

    The question about race is very interesting and can lead to a pretty interesting and possibly heated class debate. The question of what race is can be a complicated road. There is black or white or Asian , but all 3 of the races might have some shared ancestors from Russia or Africa, so that makes me think what really does define "race". Great article, made me think.

  6. spcannon

    The information is very interesting. I agree completely with her that race is fabrication to complex research designs among groups of individuals. I would like to read her novel to see the direct configurations as mentioned among admixture. I would wonder, how can race place health disparities as invalid? Meaning, throughout the history of disease among the body, would the classifications of theses diseases (I.e. Sickle cell, asthma, HIV, etc) be different if the findings were not among minority groups?? Would race still be an issue, or would it simply be a "disease" associated among all people, not just a conditioned group?

  7. Aaron Hoggle

    Looking back on the activity from two weeks ago trying to classify race based on appearance it was evident that there is no definitive line that can be drawn to establish classifications. Emily and I thought the activity was an interesting way to see what the class thought about classification. Our second activity dealing with 23andme was an interesting look at the diversity of our class. We felt that our activities were a good fit to go along with the topic of racial classification and genetic research.

  8. Laura Hurter Chandler

    I enjoyed her idea that race or the definition of race changes depending on where you go. Each place has a different culturally constructed idea of people and the pigment of their skin. One individual may be black in the United States, but white in Kuwait. I remember living in the Middle East where the natural skin tone is a darker, more tanned look. The culture, though, was that they did not want to remain their natural color. They spent $100's if not thousands on bleaching creams to make their skin lighter. They associated the lighter skin with more prestige. You could watch this unfold in public. Someone of darker pigment was usually treated inferior, even though they were of the same background, same country and had been for many, many generations. I've also been in Africa with black Americans who are treated poorly because they are not black enough. So, I feel this changes everywhere you go. You could say the same for other physical attributes, like body size, as well. In some countries, being overweight is considered a good, prestigious thing. In other countries, it's associated with being poor or lazy.

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