Advisory Memorial Board

Dr. Paul Rabinow

The Washington Post article Synthetic DNA on the Brink of Yielding New Life Forms said

It has been 50 years since scientists first created DNA in a test tube, stitching ordinary chemical ingredients together to make life’s most extraordinary molecule. Until recently, however, even the most sophisticated laboratories could make only small snippets of DNA — an extra gene or two to be inserted into corn plants, for example, to help the plants ward off insects or tolerate drought.
Now researchers are poised to cross a dramatic barrier: the creation of life forms driven by completely artificial DNA.
“This raises a range of big questions about what nature is and what it could be,” said Paul Rabinow, an anthropologist at the University of California at Berkeley who studies science’s effects on society. “Evolutionary processes are no longer seen as sacred or inviolable. People in labs are figuring them out so they can improve upon them for different purposes.”

Paul Rabinow, Ph.D. is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley.
His work has consistently centered on modernity as a problem: problem for those seeking to live with its diverse forms, a problem for those seeking to advance or resist modern projects of power and knowledge. This work has ranged from descendants of a Moroccan saint coping with the changes wrought by colonial and post-colonial regimes, to the wide array of knowledges and power relations entailed in the great assemblage of social planning in France, to his work of the last decade on molecular biology and genomics.
Paul now calls this approach an anthropology of reason. Anthropos + logos. Who are the humans at issue and what knowledges constitute them and help them to understand themselves and their environments?
His current research centers on developments in post-genomics and molecular diagnostics. It seeks to invent an analytic framework to understand the issues of bio-politics and bio-security. A related research interest is the contemporary moral terrain with special attention to “affect”.
Paul authored Marking Time: On the Anthropology of the Contemporary, Reflections on Fieldwork in Morocco, French Modern: Norms and Forms of the Social Environment, French DNA: Trouble in Purgatory, Making PCR: A Story of Biotechnology, Essays on the Anthropology of Reason, Anthropos Today: Reflections on Modern Equipment, and Symbolic Domination: Cultural Form and Historical Change in Morocco, coauthored A Machine to Make a Future: Biotech Chronicles and Michel Foucault: Beyond Structuralism and Hermeneutics, edited The Foucault Reader, and coedited Interpretive Social Science: A Second Look, The Essential Foucault, and Rethinking the Subject: An Anthology of Contemporary European Social Thought. Read the full list of his publications!
He was named “Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres” by the French Government in 1998. He received the University of Chicago Alumni Association Professional Achievement Award in 2000. He was awarded the visiting Chaire Internationale de Recherche Blaise Pascal at the École Normale Supérieure for 2001–2. He was named STICERD Distinguished Visiting Professor at the BIOS Centre for the study of Bioscience, Biomedicine, Biotechnology and Society, London School of Economics in 2004.
Paul earned his B.A. in 1965, his M.A. in 1967, and Ph.D. in 1970, all in anthropology from the University of Chicago.
Read Humanity Reinvented: Paul Rabinow has a birds-eye view of humanity in the crosshairs of technological invention, Assembling Ethics in an Ecology of Ignorance, and Thoughts On The Concept of Biopower Today.