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The research catalogue is an archive of ESRC-funded grants and outputs. Links, files and other content will no longer be maintained or updated after April 2014.

Genetics, genomics and genetic modification in agriculture: emerging knowledge-practices in making and managing farm livestock.

Grant reference: RES-062-23-0642

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Journal article details

Contesting genetic knowledge-practices in livestock breeding : biopower, biosocial collectivities and heterogeneous resistances
Cattle and sheep breeders in the UK and elsewhere increasingly draw on genetic techniques in order to make breeding decisions. Many breeders support such techniques, while others argue against them for a variety of reasons, including their preference for the ‘traditions’ of visual- and pedigree-based selections. Meanwhile, even for those institutions and breeders who promote genetic techniques, the outcomes are not always as predicted. This paper builds on our recent use of Foucault’s discussions of biopower to examine the effects of the introduction of genetic techniques in UK livestock breeding, to begin to explore the diffuse and capillary nature of resistance within relations of biopower. The paper focuses specifically on how resistance and contestation can be understood through the joint lenses of biopower and an understanding of livestock breeding as knowledge-practices enacted within heterogeneous biosocial collectivities. In some instances these collectivities coalesce around shared endeavour, such as increasing the valency of genetic evaluation within livestock breeding. Yet such mixed collectivities also open up opportunities for counter-conduct: heterogeneous resistances to and contestations of genetic evaluation as something represented as progressive and inevitable. The paper focuses on exploring such modes of resistance using detailed empirical research with livestock breeders and breeding institutions. It demonstrates how in different and specific ways geneticisation becomes problematised, is contested and made more complex, through the knowledge-practices of breeders, the bodies of animals, and the complex relationships between different institutions in livestock breeding and rearing.

Primary contributor

Co-author Lewis Holloway

Additional contributors

Co-author Carol Morris

Additional details

01 January 2012
Environment and planning D : society and space