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Scale, Exchange, Carbon Calculators, Population Genetics, Space-time, Objectification


Two global initiatives, the Genographic Project and the Carbon Lottery, share an ambition to make abstract, global processes—human evolution and climate change—comprehensible and engaging to non-specialists. Despite their differences, they both do so by means of self-objectifications that scale up the selves of participants and scale down complex, spatio-temporal models of human-world relations. Based on the author’s auto-ethnographic experience as a participant in both initiatives, it is argued that carbon calculators and personalised genomics involves a pragmatics of scale that evaluates and compares users on the basis of their relative expression of, or deviation from, a standard. Furthermore, this is not based on actual resources that participants do or do not possess, but on forms of capitalist exchange that underwrite carbon trading and population genomics, as experts and corporations make fungible intellectual property derived from purportedly rare DNA and sustainable practices, which are typically indigenous and non-western. In fact, for users of these initiatives, the global inequalities that make possible transactions in carbon offsets and genetic ancestry are obscured from view. As a result, though initiatives like the Genographic Project and Carbon Lottery may provide comprehensible self-objectifications, they potentially make the world more unequal in the process.


This the post-print version, the final version can be found in the journal Science as Culture

Publisher Attribution

The final version was published by Taylor & Francis' Science as Culture, DOI: 10.1080/09505431.2017.1324839

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Anthropology Commons



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