From Social Structure to Gene Regulation, and Back: A Critical Introduction to Environmental Epigenetics for Sociology

Posted: 27 Jul 2013

See all articles by Hannah Landecker

Hannah Landecker

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Sociology

Aaron Panofsky

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA)

Date Written: July 2013

Abstract

Epigenetics is a burgeoning area of biomedical research into the mechanisms by which genes are regulated - how the activity of producing proteins is controlled. Although molecular epigenetic research is highly biochemical, it is of interest to sociologists because some epigenetic changes are environmentally mediated and can persist across the life span or into further generations. Environmental epigenetic research tracks mechanisms by which social forces - from pollution to nutrition to mothering to traumatic experience - become molecularly embodied, affect gene expression, and induce durable changes in behavior and health. We begin with an introduction to the science of environmental epigenetics focused on articulating the logic of experimentation and explanation in this field. Turning to sociologists' key interests, we review the growing literature on epigenetics of socioeconomic status. Finally, we consider how epigenetics offers opportunities and challenges for sociological research on both empirical and theoretical grounds.

Suggested Citation

Landecker, Hannah and Panofsky, Aaron, From Social Structure to Gene Regulation, and Back: A Critical Introduction to Environmental Epigenetics for Sociology (July 2013). Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 39, pp. 333-357, 2013, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2298460 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1146/annurev-soc-071312-145707

Hannah Landecker (Contact Author)

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) - Department of Sociology ( email )

Los Angeles, CA
United States

Aaron Panofsky

University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) ( email )

405 Hilgard Avenue
Box 951361
Los Angeles, CA 90095
United States

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