Janelle Lamoreaux

About Janelle Lamoreaux

I am a sociocultural anthropologist with specialities in reproduction, gender, science and technology studies, and environmental health.

I am currently on Junior Faculty Professional Development Leave finishing my single-authored monograph, In/fertile Environments: Epigenetics in a Toxic China. The book is an ethnographic study of epigenetic research conducted by toxicologists who focus on male reproductive health. It is primarily about how toxicologists make knowledge through epigenetic research practices that bring into being various forms of the environment. But it is also about how environmental health scientists and activists make sense of the increasingly toxic worlds in which they live. Based on fieldwork conduced in Nanjing during a time when protecting the natural environment was not explicitly a part of everyday concerns, but the amount of toxic exposures faced by Chinese citizens was clearly growing, my research approaches toxicity as more than simply a measure of capacity to bring about harmful effects. I approach toxicity as a material and existential condition in which people struggle to make sense of the embodied consequences of political-economic policies and distributed social hierarchies. Epigenetic research and its findings exacerbate this material and existential condition, raising the stakes of toxicity to an inheritable dimension. For the toxicologists I discuss, epigenetic research is a way of reckoning with toxic environments as not only the contexts in which people live, but also the content of their very being – both of which will be passed on to future generations. These toxic environments include a number of surroundings at scales from the cellular to the atmospheric.

In addition to the book I have two related articles about cross-cultural understandings of toxicity: one in Cultural Anthropology about variations in epigenetic understanding of personhood and the "maternal environment," and another in Cross Currents about the harm of endocrine disrupting chemicals. I have also contributed to various online forums on the topic, including a Somatosphere post, a Fieldsights post, and an author interview.

I am co-editor of the updated edition to the Routledge Handbook of Genomics, Health and Society (with Sahra Gibbon, Barbara Prainsack and Stephen Hilgartner). The Handbook provides an overview of classic and emergent topics in the social studies of (post-)genomics. This includes a chapter I authored on Gendered Bioeconomies.

I am part of a collaborative research effort around the theme Reproducing the Environment, co-organized with Katharine Dow from University of Cambridge. We are exploring how reproductive technologies (broadly defined) are used to mitigate environmental problems, as well as questions about how and why environmental issues are often framed through questions of reproduction and future generations. We have written a book review essay on reproductive environmental justice entitled "Situating Kinmaking and 'the Problem of Population'", forthcoming in Environmental Humanities. The Reproducing the Environment initiative is now being conducted in conjunction with the Wellcome Trust funded Changing In/Fertilities project, of which I am a network participant.

I am also a participant in the Wellcome Trust funded biosocial birth cohort network, which examines and utilizes birth cohort studies as reflexive method, and working with organizer of the network, Dr. Sahra Gibbon, on how integernational ethnography rethinks kinship, especially in relation to chemical toxicity.  I recently published an essay on this topic on Somatosphere.

I have started preliminary research on a second research project that continues at the intersection of reproductive and environmental health, focusing on the use of reproductive technologies by coral conservation programmes. Coral gametes, like the eggs and sperm of other endangered species, are being frozen in order to preserve the possibility of future resurrection. A study of these practices will address the extent to which problems of the environment and reproduction often transcend formalized political, national and gender boundaries. This is especially true of coral, whose sex exceeds male/female categories and whose territory are dispersed throughout disputed waters such as the South China Sea. This project thinks through how "cyroconservation" falls into a long line of reprotech projects that claim to offer bio-technological solutions to complex social and environmental problems. It also expands on questions of how the intentional intertwining of biology and technology has become vital to human and non-human fertility conservation projects.

In addition, I am conductory exploratory research (in other words, reading and thinking about) epigenetic therapeutics, environmental campaigns related to population planning, and sensory processing disorder/intergration. I welcome invitations and inquiries along these lines.

In fall of 2020 I will be teaching Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (ANTH 200) and a graduate course in Ethnographic Research Methods.


Selected Publications

2020. "Toxicology and the Chemistry of Cohort Kinship," Somatosphere, http://somatosphere.net/2020/chemical-kinship.html/

2019. "Epigenetic In/Fertilities." Theorizing the Contemporary, Fieldsights, April 25. https://culanth.org/fieldsights/epigenetic-in-fertilities

2019. "'Swimming in Poison': Reimagining Endocrine Disruption through China’s Environmental Hormones." Cross-Currents: East Asian History and Culture Review (e-journal) 30: 78–100. https://cross-currents.berkeley.edu/e-journal/issue-30/lamoreaux.

2018 Gendered Bioeconomies. (This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter in Handbook of Genomics, Health and Society published by Routledge in April 2018, available online: https://www.routledge.com/Routledge-Handbook-of-Genomics-Health-and-Society-2nd-Edition/Gibbon-Prainsack-Hilgartner-Lamoreaux/p/book/9781315451695

2016 "What if the Environment is a Person? Lineages of Epigenetics in a Toxic China," Cultural Anthropology 31(2): 188-214, https://culanth.org/articles/806-what-if-the-environment-is-a-person-lineages-of

2016 It's Artificial, naturally! Shielding the breast in an era of climate change. Reproductive Sociology Research Group Blog. University of Cambridge. http://www.reprosoc.sociology.cam.ac.uk/blog/shielding-the-breast-in-an-era-of-climate-change

2016 Lust. Money. Impotence: A Review of the book The Impotence Epidemic: Men’s Medicine and Sexual Desire in Contemporary China. Current Anthropology 57(1).
2015 Book Review: Powerless Science? Science and Politics in a Toxic World. Medicine Anthropology Theory 1(1) http://www.medanthrotheory.org/read/3929/powerless-science-science-and-politics-in-a-toxic-world

Courses Taught

CURRENTLY ON RESEARCH LEAVE (Spring 2019-Spring 2020)

ANTH 200: Intro to Cultural Anthropology

ANTH 373: Toxic! The Anthropology of Exposure

ANTH 406: Anthropology of Gender

ANTH 696B: Anthropology, Environment, Health

Research Interests

Gender, -Omics, Environments, Reproduction, China

Writing, Ethnographic Methods, Feminist Science Studies

Janelle Lamoreaux's picture

Contact Information

Assistant Professor
Telephone: (520) 621-0373
Office: Haury 306
Office Hours: By Appointment


PhD in Medical Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley and San Francisco

MA in Anthropology, New School for Social Research

BA in Sociology/Anthropology, Lewis and Clark College


Catalog Courses by Faculty