Genetic science is making ever-expanding claims about the (mal)functioning of the body. The ‘geneticisation’ of health and medicine is extending from rare single gene conditions to more common multi-factorial disease, such as heart disease. The dominant behavioural and socio-spatial explanations of heart disease are now being challenged by genetic claims of deterministic biological causes. This paper builds an account of the transformation of heart disease in the new genetics era, by applying actor network theory (ANT) to the production of genetic knowledge of one aspect of heart disease—hypertension—within a medical genetics laboratory in Glasgow, Scotland. Using this approach, the paper shows that there is no straightforward geneticisation of heart disease. Instead, there is a contested, complex and uncertain understanding of heart disease as genetic, a product of the many people, technologies, natural elements and spaces involved in the network of genetic science knowledge making. The paper concludes that a ‘critical’ ANT could be developed that acknowledges the inherent unevenness of the network, and connects genetic and socio-spatial explanations of heart disease.
- Heart disease
- Actor network theory