The Twisted Helix: a technology of 'truth' A study of DNA paternity testing in child protection practice

Josephine Yellowlees (2010). The Twisted Helix: a technology of 'truth' A study of DNA paternity testing in child protection practice PhD Thesis, School of Social Work and Human Services, The University of Queensland.

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Author Josephine Yellowlees
Thesis Title The Twisted Helix: a technology of 'truth' A study of DNA paternity testing in child protection practice
School, Centre or Institute School of Social Work and Human Services
Institution The University of Queensland
Publication date 2010-05
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Professor Karen Healy
Dr Paul Henman
Total pages 229
Total black and white pages 229
Subjects 16 Studies in Human Society
Abstract/Summary This thesis examines DNA paternity testing as a practiced technique in shaping the lives of children and their families at the attention of statutory child protection services in the State of Queensland, Australia. Currently, this practice activity is invisible and unknown to the Agency Executive and uninformed by legislation, policy or practice guidelines Since the emergence of 'new' genetic technologies from the Human Genome Project there has been a subtle, but increasing acceptance of DNA technologies and socially applied techniques such as DNA paternity testing. Grounded within a discourse and community of scientific rationality and universal truth, these techniques and rationalities bring new ways to the meaning made about how we, in contemporary society, live our lives as individuals, families and communities. In identifying an individual‟s unique genetic characteristics and genetic similarity to others, DNA paternity testing may indicate intimate and biological relationships that can alter established understandings of family. Perceived as generating the truth of familial relationships, this DNA technology offers opportunities and future possibilities for civic governance in disciplining and ordering our lives as citizens. In Australia, DNA paternity testing came under scrutiny as part of a larger public inquiry into the protection of human genetic information. Examined in a range of public and private spheres, the test‟s social application was found to create new challenges and dilemmas for professional and ethical practice. However, its use in child protection, a contentious and highly scrutinised human service practice field, did not come to the Inquiry‟s notice. Children and their families at the attention of government for reasons of child abuse and neglect are subject to professional policy and decision making. Given their dependent status and life experiences, these children are especially vulnerable to the potential impact that agency practices have upon them and their life chances. The uninformed use of DNA paternity testing among this marginalised population group is particularly concerning. This thesis draws upon French philosopher Michel Foucault's governmentality approach to problematise DNA paternity testing within the unique statutory and disciplinary strategies of child protection services. Perceived as a scientific technique for revealing 'truth', DNA paternity testing emphasises Foucault‟s concept of bio-power as 'the molecular gaze'. Formerly indiscernible, an individual's genetic characteristics are rendered useful for governing particular and marginalised bodies. By illuminating DNA paternity testing as a governing technique, a governmentality perspective disrupts taken-for-granted assumptions about how we govern and are governed.
Keyword dna paternity testing
child protection

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Created: Sat, 11 Sep 2010, 19:03:25 EST by Ms Josephine Yellowlees on behalf of Library - Information Access Service