American Genomics in Barbados: Race, Illness, and Pleasure in the Science of Personalized Medicine

- Body and Society
Author/s: -Whitmarsh, Ian
Journal: Body and Society
Year: 2011
Volume: 17
Pages: 159
Start Page: 159

Barbados is a center of international genetic research premised on race. Drawing on
ethnographic fieldwork following Johns Hopkins studies carried out in Barbados, this article explores this travel for research. This biomedical science relies on a conflicting significance of Barbados: as a site of suffering, due to the disparities of disease, and, conversely, a site of ease, playing on desires and pleasures of escaping too much asceticism in biomedicine. For the American researchers, Barbados becomes a locus of desire to ethically address the African diaspora without the quandaries of accusations and recriminations experienced in carrying out such work in urban America. The concept of cathartic science is used to describe an endeavor that creates a controlled space to know and act on some perceived sufferer without risk of being complicit in the suffering. These medical migrations of researchers to Barbados are paralleled by Bajan families participating in the American studies as a kind
of proxy medical migration to the US, bitterly reflecting on the care available to them at home. This article explores the motives of this mutual travel, as a biomedicalized Barbados becomes a spectral figure for patients and researchers fraught with race, injustice, and desire. The article extends the concept of cathartic science from genomics of race to medical anthropology to foreground the desires and anxieties of any science of suffering.