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AJS. 2008;114 Suppl:S287-316.

Sequencing and its consequences: path dependence and the relationships between genetics and medicalization.

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Department of Sociology, Brandeis University, MS 071, Waltham, Massachusetts 02454-9110, USA.


Both advocacy for and critiques of the Human Genome Project assume a self-sustaining relationship between genetics and medicalization. However, this assumption ignores the ways in which the meanings of genetic research are conditional on its position in sequences of events. Based on analyses of three conditions for which at least one putative gene or genetic marker has been identified, this article argues that critical junctures in the institutional stabilization of phenotypes and the mechanisms that sustain such classifications over time configure the practices and meanings of genetic research. Path dependence is critical to understanding the lack of consistent fit between genetics and medicalization.

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