SSHM Research Seminar Wednesday March 16th with Dr Sahra Gibbon: “Cancer and rare genetic disease in southern Brazil”

We are delighted to invite you to our upcoming SSHM Seminar Series event. Please save the date for Dr. Sahra Gibbon (Department of Anthropology, University College London) who will present her work on “Cancer and rare genetic disease in southern Brazil. Engaging and traversing the ‘politics of numbers and singularisation’”

The Seminar will take place on Wednesday 16th March from 13:00-14:30 in Room K0.18, King’s Building, Strand Campus, King’s College London.

We hope that many of you will be able to join us!

Abstract: An interest in rare genetic disease has long been part of an agenda of medical genetic research, often seen as an opportunity to identify the molecular pathways of ‘neglected diseases’. Within the context of a globalizing agenda for genetic research and health care where ‘global health’ is increasingly seen as necessarily informed by, benefitting from and needing to take account of genetic components, the focus on rare genetic diseases is becoming prominent. In this context the meaning of rare is simultaneously, mobilized, questioned and transformed as expanding epidemiological data reveal the highly variable frequency of genetic markers, and ‘underserved’ populations are unevenly constituted as potential market resources and  beneficiaries. This paper seeks to localize the growing interest in ‘rare genetic diseases’ as part of a global discourse on genomic health care by presenting findings from ethnographic research in Brazil. It reflects on how a purportedly ‘rare’ cancer syndrome is being constituted at the interface with transnational research agendas and how engaging with and traversing a politics of ‘numbers and singularisation’ (Rabeharisoa et al 2014) is central to the process by which rareness is being constituted and transformed.

Sahra Gibbon is a Reader in Medical Anthropology at University College London. She has long-standing research interests in the social and cultural context of genomic technologies, particularly focused on breast cancer genetics and carried out research in the UK, Cuba and Brazil. Her most recent co-edited collection published in 2014 is Breast Cancer Gene Research and Medical Practices. Transnational Perspectives in the Time of BRCA.

For more information about our SSHM Seminar Series, please visit:

For a selection of audio-recorded talks, please visit:


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