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Sep 21, 2011 Commentary
Of deterritorialization, healthism and biosocialities: the companies' marketing and users' experiences of online genetics

by Pascal Ducournau and Claire Beaudevin

Since the early 2000s, anybody can buy genetic tests, directly sold on the Internet. These tests provide information about susceptibilities to some diseases and/or about ancestry. Thus, this article deals with a new e-market, whose scientific basis (validity of the tests) and status (as medical devices or consumer goods) are currently controversial. On one hand, we describe the tests and the advertisement and marketing strategies used by the companies (we made an inventory of about 40); on the other hand, we discuss several aspects on the basis of interviews conducted with users: first, the entanglement of these strategies with the global context of healthism and the emphasis put on individuals’ empowerment regarding health decisions — “individualized biopolitics”. In addition, this article broaches the new kind of biosocial networks appearing in these tests’ wake: some users indeed gather on the basis of a genetic proximity, as is it put forward by their results.

Volume 10 • Issue 03 • 2011