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Global genetic fictions
  1. Clare Barker
  1. School of English, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Clare Barker, School of English, University of Leeds, Leeds LS2 9JT, UK; c.f.barker{at}

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This special issue has developed out of a research symposium on global genetic fictions, funded by Wellcome, which was held at the University of Leeds in April 2019. Involving historians, literary and cultural critics, it was a welcome opportunity to sample the wealth of humanities-based scholarship on genetic science, its cultural representations and its ethical implications. This is a field that is gathering momentum; the 2 years since that symposium, for instance, have seen the publication of three important literary critical books on genetics: Josie Gill’s Biofictions: Race, Genetics and the Contemporary Novel; Clare Hanson’s Genetics and the Literary Imagination; and Lara Choksey’s Narrative in the Age of the Genome: Genetic Worlds.1 This special issue seeks to consolidate this growing body of critical work on cultural representations of genetics and to further diversify its range of interests and applications. Collectively, we explore the circulation of ideas about genes, the genome and genetic science in cultural texts across a range of forms—from poetry to genre fiction, rap music to TED talks, popular science to historical fiction and postcolonial literature—and from diverse cultural locations.

Our focus on genetic fictions refers not only to the imaginative narratives found in literary texts, although many of the articles do draw on literature to make their arguments. Rather, following Gill’s conceptualisation of the ‘biofiction’ of race in genetic science, the ‘genetic fictions’ in this issue consist of the ideas about genetics (and related ideas about human identity, heredity, kinship, health and environments) that are ‘constituted through the complex entanglement of scientific and fictive forms’, with ‘fiction’ encompassing both literary texts and a more general sense of ‘the conjured up, the imaginary and the fictional’, the narratives about genes that are ‘formed in the political, social and cultural spheres’.2 This is important because, …

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  • Funding This research was funded by the Wellcome Trust (grant number: 106839/Z/15/Z).

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.