Taming the wild life of genes by law? Genes reconfiguring solidarity in private insurance

Ine Van Hoyweghen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


This article introduces thinking from science and technology studies (STS) and in particular the work of Callon to study the topic of genetic testing and private insurance markets. To explore the fruitfulness of this STS approach, I will reconstruct the conventional framing of genetics and insurance as a way of understanding the underlying mechanisms that have led to the solutions of enacting Genetic Non-Discrimination Acts (GNDAs) in private insurance markets. I argue how this conventional framing has been underpinned by a shared paradigm of genetic exceptionalism and I indicate the role of genes as operators of solidarity in aligning a hybrid coalition of concerned groups and people, captured by the trope of genetic discrimination. Using this STS approach, I will point to the unanticipated effects of GNDAs in insurance markets, in the sense that new issues may arise - for example new struggles for solidarity - issues that cannot be identified by the conventional framing of genetics and insurance. This may pave the way for new configurations of solidarity in insurance in the molecular age. I suggest how genes, instead of simply being an object of discrimination, can be important operators of solidarity. Sensibility to the co-shaping of genes and the social, and the new identities, groups and biosocial relations involved in the manufacture of biosciences, law and insurance classifications is essential for better understanding of the politics of insurance markets, for the role of genes in reconfiguring solidarity in insurance markets and for informed governance. This article should be seen as programmatic, fleshing out important contemporary issues in the relationship between genetic technologies, insurance markets and politics that really need much more detailed analyses and discussion.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)431-455
JournalNew Genetics and Society
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2010


  • genetic exceptionalism
  • solidarity
  • genetic discrimination
  • emergent concerned groups
  • insurance

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