Interview

Shana Riethof joins Spiral as an FNRS midshipman


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Shana Riethof, an anthropologist by training, joined the UR Cité on October 1 as an FNRS candidate. Her work focuses on on the implication of genetic and genomic technologies in the procreative process.

Can you tell us more about your research project?

Genetic and genomic technologies are increasingly present in the pathways of individuals who wish to start a family: prenatal screening during pregnancy, screening and selection of healthy embryos during in vitro fertilization, extensive testing for carriers of genetic diseases...

Initially, these technologies were aimed at individuals who were likely to pass on an inherited genetic disease to their children. Today, they are no longer limited to this specific group: they target an increasingly large population. Several factors contribute to this: the development of genomic tests, the reimbursement by the social security of certain tests...

I am more specifically interested in the hospital environment. In particular, I am interested in the way in which people wishing to have children and the nursing staff deal with the irruption of these technologies, which disrupt the existing care protocols.

How did you come to be interested in this subject?

My master's thesis in anthropology already dealt with the doctor-patient relationship in the context of in vitro fertilization. In this context, I did an internship in a fertility clinic.

These genetic technologies and the uncertainties they bring intrigue me, because they force us to ask questions in new terms. How do we make sense of genetic knowledge? How does this knowledge affect the way we live and reproduce? But also, how do we set our limits in terms of selection in human reproduction? These are complex questions! This raises questions about our conception of the normal and the pathological, or the blurring of lines between what seems natural and artificial.

Why is it important to focus on this topic today?

Genetic technologies are set to become increasingly embedded in all areas of our society. We are moving more and more towards a 4P medicine: personalized, predictive, preventive, participative.

I think it is essential to document and accompany these changes that concern us all.

What are the next steps for your research?

I am still in the very early stages of this project, having started on October1st. Initially, I will focus on the ethical and theoretical side. I will explore several conceptual frameworks. This research will also take place in the field through an ethnographic survey: the next step is to determine where I will collect my data.

His background

Shana holds a master's degree in anthropology from ULB. She joined Spiral through an FNRS mandate, where she works under the direction of François Thoreau 

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