Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

"The Ancestors Within"

Genetics, Biocolonialism, and Medical Ethics in Patricia Grace's Baby No-Eyes

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2013), 7, (2), 141–158.

Abstract

The article analyses Patricia Grace's novel Baby No-Eyes (1998) in light of debates about the Human Genome Diversity Project and its research on indigenous communities. Focusing on the story of a miscarried Māori baby whose eyes are removed for medical testing, Grace highlights the continuities between extractive colonial practices such as land dispossession and new, "biocolonial" activities regarding the mining of the human body. Her dramatization of culturally fraught medical encounters contributes to debates about "cultural safety" in healthcare, while the novel's exploration of indigenous genealogy, ghosting, and health advocacy challenges the HGDP's language of "vanishing communities" and "extinction." Baby No-Eyes asserts powerful arguments for more robust ethical protocols in genetic research, humanizing debates that often take place on the level of bioethics, health policy, and international law. The article concludes that the novel's ethical recommendations provide conceptual foundations that could contribute to the decolonization of genetic science.

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Author details

Barker, Clare