The social construction of the social epigenome and the larger biological context.

Epigenetics & Chromatin
ute deichmann


Epigenetics researchers in developmental, cell, and molecular biology greatly diverge in their understanding and definitions of epigenetics. In contrast, social epigeneticists, e.g., sociologists, scholars of STS, and behavioural scientists, share a focus and definition of epigenetics that is environmentally caused and trans-generationally inherited. This article demonstrates that this emphasis on the environment and on so-called Lamarckian inheritance, in addition to other factors, reflects an interdisciplinary power struggle with genetics, in which epigenetics appears to grant the social sciences a higher epistemic status. Social scientists' understanding of epigenetics, thus, appears in part to be socially constructed, i.e., the result of extra-scientific factors, such as social processes and the self-interest of the discipline. This article argues that social epigeneticists make far-reaching claims by selecting elements from research labelled epigenetics in biology while ignoring widely confirmed scientific facts in genetics and cell biology, such as the dependence of epigenetic marks on DNA sequence-specific events, or the lack of evidence for the lasting influence of the environment on epigenetic marks or the epigenome. M...Continue Reading


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Dec 20, 2020·Journal of Developmental Biology·Abigail P BlinePatrick Allard

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Methods Mentioned

histone acetylation
environmental stress

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