Cafe #4: When Science Meets Culture: Exploring the Genetic Imaginary

While the endeavours of genetics have and continue to change biological, forensic and clinical sciences, the language of genes has profoundly and overwhelmingly reshaped our culture. How do we even begin to unpack the extraordinary place ‘genes’ have in public discourse and the popular imagination? To what degree does the ‘genetic imaginary’ correlate with or exceed the underpinning science? How has the language of genes come to pervade public discourse – as much a trope of personal narrative as of public anxiety? How can we gain critical purchase not only on the conditions and consequences of a particular science, but on its projective seductions, its terms of persuasion.

DNA: from image (Franklin’s x-ray diffraction result) to image (Crick’s pencil sketch)


Focusing on a brief example from a myriad of possible examples, this evening will consider these and other questions as we explore the cultural apotheosis of the gene not only as a pre-eminent locus of scientific and social explanation, but also as a powerful object of spectacle, fantasy and attachment.

The speaker is Deborah Lynn Steinberg, Professor of Gender, Culture and Media Studies at the University of Warwick, who has written widely on the cultural impact of genetics and the intersection of scientific and popular imaginaries. Her recent book Genes and the Bioimaginary: Science, Spectacle, Culture (2015) has been recently published by Ashgate.

The talk will take place at the Cherry Reds Cafe, central Birmingham, on Tuesday 23 February; be there for 6:30 to order your drinks and food and thus ready for a start at 7 pm.


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