FeaturesLectures

Birth cohorts, biosocial theory, and the politics of developmental disruption

How and with what consequences do young people push up against standardized views of “normal” and “healthy” development? To what extent can young people’s attempts to disrupt developmental norms be understood as political acts? I became intrigued by these questions while conducting long-term ethnographic research with a subset of young participants in the 1982 birth cohort study in Pelotas, Southern …

Lectures

Epistemic and Temporal Disjunctions: (Re)Mapping “Suicide Risk” Epigenetics Through Birth Cohorts

The McGill Group for Suicide Studies (MGSS) has garnered significant attention for its epigenetic models of suicide risk. These models suggest that early life adversity may set people on pathways of neurobiological vulnerability and, ultimately, suicide risk, which are correlated with distinctive epigenetic traits. While the core of this epigenetic and neuroscientific research is carried out on the donated brains …

Lectures

How should we study intergenerational trauma? Reflections on a 30-year birth cohort study in Soweto, South Africa

My parents immigrated to the United States from South Korea in the late 80’s in search of political stability and socioeconomic opportunity. While they did not come with much money or many belongings, as children of survivors of Japanese colonialism and the Korean War, my parents brought with them the heavy burdens of historical trauma from militarized occupation and their …

Lectures

Human Placenta, Birth Cohorts, and the Production of Epigenetic Knowledge

Precious Material

Over the past decade, the Canadian university-based Epigenetics Lab has become increasingly central to the production of knowledge about human health and development.[1] During my first visit there, Daniel, one of three technicians in the lab, is visibly stressed. He apologizes for not being more relaxed. He has been up all night worried about a shipment of …

Lectures

Toxicology and the chemistry of cohort kinship

Birth cohort studies are characterized as longitudinal investigations of research subjects with at least one common characteristic, usually being born in the same time and place. Such studies are increasingly common around the world and across a number of disciplines (Gibbon and Pentecost 2019), including toxicology. The small group of approximately twenty reproductive and developmental toxicologists I researched while conducting …

Lectures

Bioethnography and the Birth Cohort: A Method for Making New Kinds of Anthropological Knowledge about Transmission (which is what anthropology has been about all along)

© Elizabeth F. S. Roberts

These are pots and dishes. They transmit food and love. They transmit lead. They transmit class. They transmit enduring inequality and new forms of environmental degradation. These transmissions are conveyed through food, love, and chemical leaching. These pots are for sale in working class neighborhoods in Mexico City. They are passed around in families. They …