Shaping Public Discourses of Nature: Biological Mutation in the American Press, 1820-1945

Rouyan, Anahita Elzbieta (2017) Shaping Public Discourses of Nature: Biological Mutation in the American Press, 1820-1945, [Dissertation thesis], Alma Mater Studiorum Università di Bologna. Dottorato di ricerca in Science, cognition and technology, 29 Ciclo. DOI 10.6092/unibo/amsdottorato/7842.
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The application of the recombinant DNA technologies to modify plant genomes became an issue of public controversy in the United States, a dispute which culminated during the last years of the century and continued unabated into the next. Scholarship which examines public perceptions of genetic engineering focuses almost exclusively on the reception of rDNA technologies, ignoring the rich history of interactions between the American society and organisms with hereditary traits modified by botanists, plant physiologists, and geneticists prior to the emergence of laboratory methods for genetic recombination. Examining three historical episodes which prompted the American society to confront the concept of mutation, in the present dissertation I explore the historical development of public attitudes to the possibility of modifying hereditary traits of living organisms. On the pages of this dissertation, I argue that tracing the history of public discourses revolving around biological mutation – in the form of species transmutation, the theory of mutation, and genetic mutation – allows access to the discursive space where such early interactions took place. Each chapter of the dissertation unveils the historical and discursive circumstances which lead the American media to associate the quality of “unnaturalness” with modified organisms in the public sphere. Consequently, the dissertation aims to demonstrate that the discourses employed by the media and social movements campaigning against genetic engineering in the 1990s – still reverberating among the American public – relied on essentialist assumptions about the natural environment which had circulated in the American press centuries before the emergence of rDNA technologies.

Tipologia del documento
Tesi di dottorato
Rouyan, Anahita Elzbieta
Dottorato di ricerca
Settore disciplinare
Settore concorsuale
Parole chiave
biological mutation, American life sciences, American print media, experimental evolutionary biology, genetically modified organism
Data di discussione
7 Giugno 2017

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