Monday, January 12, 2009

I am my gene, not my ethnicity

This article by Jerry Adler in Newsweek gave me pause. I'm in the middle of constructing a proposal to look at the pharmacogenetics of diabetes in the Malaysian population. One of the parameters that I plan to collect during the course of the investigation is ethnicity (or race, except that race sounds so ... racist.). Living in multicultural Malaysia where you have a box in any given form to indicate your ancestry(Melayu, Cina, India dan lain-lain), identifying yourself as part of an ethnic group is pretty much a way of life.

For those who are of mixed parentage, things can get pretty squeaky. As Asians, you are expected to identify yourself per your father's ethnicity (paternalistic society norms still prevail in the 21st century). But what if your father is a mere sperm donor and you do not want to link yourself to him at all? Or you're a dyed in the wool feminist who believes in aligning yourself with your maternal lineage?

Anyway. A number of the work done in disease genetics in Malaysia do indicate certain patterns that relate to a person's ethnicity. I guess I will not be going all gung-ho about not being "racist" in my project.

*crescents fingers*

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