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Genomic Stuff | Engaging Resources
New Anthropological Perspectives on Natural Resource Environments

Genomic Stuff

Gisli Palsson, University of Iceland

Emphasizing the context of what has often been referred to as “scarce natural resources,” in particular forests, meadows, and fishing stocks, Elinor Ostrom’s important works, especially Governing the Commons (1990) and Understanding Institutional Diversity (2005), present an institutional framework for discussing the development and use of collective action with respect to environmental problems. In this article I discuss extensions of Ostrom’s approach to human genes and genomes and explore its limits and usefulness. Exemplified by a discussion of the so-called HapMap project, which set out to develop a public resource for genetic and genomic research, I argue that what I call “genomic stuff” – genomic material, data, and information – can best be regulated by modes of self-regulation of appropriators.