I am an anthropologist of science and medicine interested in how social identities, health outcomes, and molecular genetic findings increasingly intersect. In my first book, The Enculturated Gene: Sickle Cell Health Politics and Biological Difference in West Africa (Princeton, 2011), I draw on over a decade of ethnographic fieldwork in the US, France and Senegal. By bringing the lives of people with sickle cell anemia together with how the science about them has been made, The Enculturated Gene weaves together postcolonial genetic science, the effects of structural adjustment on health resources, and patient activism between Senegal and France to show how African sickle cell has been ordered in ethnic-national terms at the level of the gene. This work is situated within larger conversations on ethics, power, and the ways that human biological material, within the context of culture, is rarely apolitical. The Enculturated Gene won the Royal Anthropological Institute’s 2011 Amaury Talbot Prize for the most valuable work of African Anthropology and the American Anthropological Association’s 2014 Robert B. Textor and Family Prize for Excellence in Anticipatory Anthropology.

Since 2003, I have conducted multi-sited field research in the United States on emergent technologies that measure human genetic diversity among populations and between individuals. As an outgrowth of this research, I have become particularly interested in how scientists engage ideas of genetic "inclusion" in how they enlist participant involvement in specific disease research problems, and how they also grapple with social movements of historical reckoning. In its detail, this second book project explores how U.S. political concepts of diversity, usually glossed as “race,” function in genetic recruitment protocols and study designs for research on complex diseases, “tailored medicine,” ancestry tracing, and personal genomics.

As of 2019, I have started new fieldwork on migration from West Africa into Europe. I am concerned with people's personal narratives of success at all costs in light of state sponsored surveillance, the simultaneous rigidity and fluidity of borders aided by new technologies, as well as how people use various forms of science to create relational pathways that come to constitute home. This work also interrogates how human-made environmental resource scarcity pushes people to migrate or, rather, to simply move, in their quests for viable futures. I am interested in how human desires for safety and home become criminalized when Europe's postcolonial anxieties about "secure borders" in the global north become divorced from the forms of insecurity that ongoing postcolonial economic policies breed throughout Africa. Finally, this work investigates new forms of racism engendered by the newest iterations of technologically-assisted and animated border patrolling.

My work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, the Andrew and Florence White Fellows program in Medicine and the Humanities, the Ford Foundation, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. I have also been an invited scholar at the Centre de Sociologie de l'Innovation in Paris (1997-1998, 2000 and 2002), a USIA Fulbright Scholar to Senegal, a fellow at the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton (2004-2005), and a Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar at the Harvard School of Public Health (2005-2007). I've also received a Scholars Award in NSF's Science & Society Program, together with Biology, to research my second book called Tabula Raza: Mapping Race and Human Diversity in American Genome Science.

Academic Appointments

  • Associate Professor, Anthropology

Administrative Appointments

  • Associate Professor of Anthropology, Stanford University (2012 - Present)
  • Associate Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University (2011 - 2012)
  • Assistant Professor of Anthropology and African-American Studies, Harvard University (2007 - 2011)
  • Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Postdoctoral Fellow, Harvard School of Public Health and Department of History of Science (2005 - 2007)
  • Minority Postdoctoral Research Fellow, National Science Foundation, New York University (2003 - 2005)
  • Andrew and Florence White Fellow in Humanities and Medicine, University of California, Irvine (2002 - 2003)
  • Invited Scholar, Ecole des Mines de Paris, Centre de sociologie de l'innovation (CSI) (2002 - 2002)
  • Dissertation Fellow, Townsend Center for the Humanities, University of Califronia, Berkeley (2001 - 2002)
  • Ford Foundation Doctoral Fellow, National Academies of Science (2001 - 2002)
  • Research Fellow, Ecole Normale Supérieure (2001 - 2002)
  • International Dissertation Research Fellowship (IDRF), Social Science Research Council (2000 - 2001)
  • Invited Scholar, Ecole des Mines de Paris, Centre de sociologie de l'innovation (CSI) (2000 - 2000)
  • Invited Scholar, Ecole des Mines de Paris, Centre de sociologie de l'innovation (CSI) (1997 - 1997)
  • Graduate Fellow, National Science Foundation (1996 - 1999)
  • Research Assistant, Department of Medical Anthropology, University of California, San Francisco (1995 - 1996)
  • Research Assistant, Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics (1995 - 1996)
  • Junior Research Specialist, Institute for the Study of Social Change (1994 - 1996)

Honors & Awards

  • Humanities and the Arts Enhanced Sabbatical Fellowship, Stanford University (H&S) (2022-2023)
  • Distinguished Faculty Fellow of Science, Technology and Society, Stanford Interdepartmental Program on Science, Technology and Society (2015-2018)
  • Robert B. Textor and Family Prize for Excellence in Anticipatory Anthropology, The American Anthropological Association (2014)
  • Amaury Talbot Prize for Most Valuable Work of African Anthropology, The Royal Anthropological Institute (United Kingdom) (2013)
  • General Anthropology Division (Award for Exemplary Cross Disciplinary Research (Honorable Mention), The American Anthropological Association (2013)
  • NSF Scholars Award (Directorate for Biology and Science and Technology Studies), National Science Foundation (2009-2012)
  • Robert Wood Johnson Health and Society Scholar, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Harvard University (2005-2007)
  • Rocca Scholar for Advanced African Studies, University of California, Berkeley (1999-2000)
  • Louise Patterson Academic Achievement Award, African American Student Development (1994, 1996-1998)
  • Graduated summa cum laude (BA), University of California, Berkeley (1994)
  • McNair Scholar, University of California, Berkeley (1994)

Boards, Advisory Committees, Professional Organizations

  • Board Member, Ethics and Society Review Panel, concerning Human-Centered Artificial Intelligence (2021 - Present)
  • Advisory Board Member, Simons Collaboration, Theory of Computing : Understanding the Foundations for Algorithmic Fairness (2021 - Present)
  • Faculty Advisory Committee, Graduate Fellowship Program on Technology and Racial Equity, Interdisciplinary program in Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, Stanford University. (2021 - Present)
  • Scientific Advisory Committee Member, Anthropologie et Santé: Revue internationale francophone d’anthropologie de la santé. (2020 - Present)
  • Area Advisor, Area Advisor for Anthropology of Science, Oxford Bibliographies. (2019 - Present)
  • Executive Board Member, Stanford Center for African Studies (2018 - 2019)
  • Executive Board Member, Interdepartmental Program in Science, Technology and Society, Stanford University (2015 - Present)
  • Advisory Panel Member/ Award Selection Committee, Robert B. Textor and Family Prize for Excellence in Anticipatory Anthropology, The American Anthropological Association (2015 - 2018)
  • Trustee of the Board, Association of Members, Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton New Jersey (2014 - 2018)
  • Executive Board Member, Interdepartmental Program in Science, Technology and Society (2012 - 2013)
  • Member, Phi Beta Kappa National Honors Society (1994 - Present)
  • Member, The Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton University (2004 - 2005)
  • Member, 4S Society for the Social Studies of Science
  • Member, American Anthropological Association
  • Member, American Ethnological Society

Program Affiliations

  • Center for African Studies
  • Science, Technology and Society

Professional Education

  • Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley and San Francisco, Medical Anthropology (2002)
  • M.A., University of California, Berkeley, Anthropology (1997)
  • B.A., University of California, Berkeley, Social Sciences (1994)

2023-24 Courses

Stanford Advisees

All Publications

  • Guidelines for genetic ancestry inference created through roundtable discussions. HGG advances Wagner, J. K., Yu, J. H., Fullwiley, D., Moore, C., Wilson, J. F., Bamshad, M. J., Royal, C. D. 2023; 4 (2): 100178


    The use of genetic and genomic technology to infer ancestry is commonplace in a variety of contexts, particularly in biomedical research and for direct-to-consumer genetic testing. In 2013 and 2015, two roundtables engaged a diverse group of stakeholders toward the development of guidelines for inferring genetic ancestry in academia and industry. This report shares the stakeholder groups' work and provides an analysis of, commentary on, and views from the groundbreaking and sustained dialogue. We describe the engagement processes and the stakeholder groups' resulting statements and proposed guidelines. The guidelines focus on five key areas: application of genetic ancestry inference, assumptions and confidence/laboratory and statistical methods, terminology and population identifiers, impact on individuals and groups, and communication or translation of genetic ancestry inferences. We delineate the terms and limitations of the guidelines and discuss their critical role in advancing the development and implementation of best practices for inferring genetic ancestry and reporting the results. These efforts should inform both governmental regulation and self-regulation.

    View details for DOI 10.1016/j.xhgg.2023.100178

    View details for PubMedID 36798092

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC9926022

  • "Reverie in Reverse: Placebo Medicine" and "Sand Lines" (poems) Fullwiley, D. Elyssar Press. Redlands, California. 2022 ; Black Rootedness: 54 Poets from Africa to America 163-166;169
  • Chronique d’un Terrain Partagé: La fusion des formes, des esprits et des genres Revue des Sciences Sociales, “50 ans d'écriture en sciences sociales. Rétrospectives et perspectives,” Fullwiley, D. 2022; 68: 106-115
  • The song of power: A fugue of dystopia and racial regeneration HAU-JOURNAL OF ETHNOGRAPHIC THEORY Fullwiley, D. 2021; 11 (2): 739-747

    View details for DOI 10.1086/716919

    View details for Web of Science ID 000757161100028

  • Of Maps, Ancestors and Genes Anthropology News Fullwiley, D. 2021

    View details for DOI 10.14506/AN.1586

  • DNA and Our Twenty-First-Century Ancestors The Boston Review Fullwiley, D. 2021
  • Toward a Compassionate Intersectional Neuroscience: Increasing Diversity and Equity in Contemplative Neuroscience. Frontiers in psychology Weng, H. Y., Ikeda, M. P., Lewis-Peacock, J. A., Chao, M. T., Fullwiley, D., Goldman, V., Skinner, S., Duncan, L. G., Gazzaley, A., Hecht, F. M. 2020; 11: 573134


    Mindfulness and compassion meditation are thought to cultivate prosocial behavior. However, the lack of diverse representation within both scientific and participant populations in contemplative neuroscience may limit generalizability and translation of prior findings. To address these issues, we propose a research framework called Intersectional Neuroscience which adapts research procedures to be more inclusive of under-represented groups. Intersectional Neuroscience builds inclusive processes into research design using two main approaches: 1) community engagement with diverse participants, and 2) individualized multivariate neuroscience methods to accommodate neural diversity. We tested the feasibility of this framework in partnership with a diverse U.S. meditation center (East Bay Meditation Center, Oakland, CA). Using focus group and community feedback, we adapted functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) screening and recruitment procedures to be inclusive of participants from various under-represented groups, including racial and ethnic minorities, gender and sexual minorities, people with disabilities, neuropsychiatric disorders, and/or lower income. Using person-centered screening and study materials, we recruited and scanned 15 diverse meditators (80% racial/ethnic minorities, 53% gender and sexual minorities). The participants completed the EMBODY task - which applies individualized machine learning algorithms to fMRI data - to identify mental states during breath-focused meditation, a basic skill that stabilizes attention to support interoception and compassion. All 15 meditators' unique brain patterns were recognized by machine learning algorithms significantly above chance levels. These individualized brain patterns were used to decode the internal focus of attention throughout a 10-min breath-focused meditation period, specific to each meditator. These data were used to compile individual-level attention profiles during meditation, such as the percentage time attending to the breath, mind wandering, or engaging in self-referential processing. This study provides feasibility of employing an intersectional neuroscience approach to include diverse participants and develop individualized neural metrics of meditation practice. Through inclusion of more under-represented groups while developing reciprocal partnerships, intersectional neuroscience turns the research process into an embodied form of social action.

    View details for DOI 10.3389/fpsyg.2020.573134

    View details for PubMedID 33329215

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC7711109

  • Genomics in emerging and developing economies HANDBOOK OF GENOMICS, HEALTH AND SOCIETY, 2ND EDITION Fullwiley, D., Gibbon, S., Gibbon, S., Prainsack, B., Hilgartner, S., Lamoreaux, J. 2018: 228–37
  • Poetry in the Medical Humanities-- Diverse Facts / Eugenics / Genes and Sleep / Pain Planet Ars Medica, Special Issue: Placebo/Nocebo Fullwiley, D. 2017; 12 (2): 18-27
  • Race, genes, power. British journal of sociology Fullwiley, D. 2015; 66 (1): 36-45

    View details for DOI 10.1111/1468-4446.12117_2

    View details for PubMedID 25789801

  • The "Contemporary Synthesis" When Politically Inclusive Genomic Science Relies on Biological Notions of Race ISIS Fullwiley, D. 2014; 105 (4): 803-814


    This essay outlines the emergence of a contemporary synthesis regarding racial thinking in genetic science and in society more broadly. A departure from what Julian Huxley in 1942 termed the "modern synthesis," the contemporary version does not purport to leave race thinking behind in favor of evolution, population genetics, and population-based accounts of natural selection and human diversity. Specifically, the contemporary synthesis blends old concepts (such as that of pure human "types," located within continental land masses) with new attitudes (democratic inclusion, multicultural diversity, and anti-racism). Through various examples, the essay shows how this new synthesis combines ideas about human biological difference that draw on measures of physical characteristics and human genetic material that are both race and population based, yet conflated. This specific amalgam allows old notions of racial types to thrive through conceptual framings that comprise ideas that were once imagined to have the potential to liberate society from racial thinking--and that today remain attached to ideas of progress. As an emergent dynamic, the contemporary synthesis holds the possibility of reinvigorating racism, while simultaneously possessing the potential to promote antiracist science education, disease awareness, and social justice efforts.

    View details for DOI 10.1086/679427

    View details for Web of Science ID 000347525700009

    View details for PubMedID 25665387

  • A Heart for the Work: Journeys through an African Medical School (Book Review) AMERICAN ANTHROPOLOGIST Book Review Authored by: Fullwiley, D. 2012; 114 (3): 557-558
  • Can DNA 'Witness' Race?: Forensic Uses of an Imperfect Ancestry Testing Technology Race and the Genetic Revolution: Science, Myth and Culture. Fullwiley, D. edited by Krimsky, S., Sloan, K. Columbia University Press. 2011
  • The Enculturated Gene: Sickle Cell Health Politics and Biological Difference in West Africa Fullwiley, D. Princeton University Press. 2011
  • Revaluating genetic causation: Biology, economy, and kinship in Dakar, Senegal AMERICAN ETHNOLOGIST Fullwiley, D. 2010; 37 (4): 638-661
  • The biologistical construction of race: 'Admixture' technology and the new genetic medicine SOCIAL STUDIES OF SCIENCE Fullwiley, D. 2008; 38 (5): 695-735


    This paper presents an ethnographic case study of the use of race in two interconnected laboratories of medical genetics. Specifically, it examines how researchers committed to reducing health disparities in Latinos with asthma advance hypotheses and structure research to show that relative frequencies of genetic markers characterize commonly understood groupings of race. They do this first by unapologetically advancing the idea that peoples whom they take to be of the 'Old World', or 'Africans', 'Europeans', 'East Asians', and 'Native Americans', can serve as putatively pure reference populations against which genetic risk for common diseases such as asthma can be calculated for those in the 'New World'. Technologically, they deploy a tool called ancestry informative markers (AIMs), which are a collection of genetic sequence variants said to differ in present-day West Africans, East Asians, Europeans, and (ideally Pre-Columbian) Native Americans. I argue that this technology, compelling as it may be to a range of actors who span the political spectrum, is, at base, designed to bring about a correspondence of familiar ideas of race and supposed socially neutral DNA. This correspondence happens, in part, as the scientists in question often bracket the environment while privileging racialized genetic variance as the primary source of health disparities for common disease, in this case between Mexicans and Puerto Ricans with asthma. With their various collaborators, these scientists represent a growing movement within medical genetics to re-consider race and 'racial admixture' as biogenetically valid points of departure. Furthermore, many actors at the center of this ethnography focus on race as a function of their personal identity politics as scientists of color. This to say, they are driven not by racist notions of human difference, but by a commitment to reduce health disparities and to include 'their' communities in what they describe as the 'genetic revolution'.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/0306312708090796

    View details for Web of Science ID 000259687000003

    View details for PubMedID 19227818

  • Out from under the skin: Disease etiology, biology and society: A commentary on Aronowitz SOCIAL SCIENCE & MEDICINE Fullwiley, D. 2008; 67 (1): 14-17
  • The legitimacy of genetic ancestry tests - Response SCIENCE Bolnick, D. A., Fullwiley, D., Marks, J., Reverby, S. M., Kahn, J., Tallbear, K., Reardon, J., Cooper, R. S., Duster, T., Fujimura, J. H., Kaufman, J. S., Morning, A., Nelson, A., Ossorio, P. 2008; 319 (5866): 1039-1040
  • Can DNA 'Witness' Race: Forensic Uses of an Imperfect Ancestry Testing Technology Genewatch Fullwiley, D. 2008; 21 (3-4): 12-14
  • The Molecularization of Race and Institutions of Difference: Pharmacy and Public Science after the Genome Revisiting Race in a Genomic Age Fullwiley, D. edited by Koenig, B. A., Lee, S. S., Richardson, S. Rutgers University Press. 2008: 149–171
  • Racial categories in medical practice: How useful are they? PLOS MEDICINE Braun, L., Fausto-Sterling, A., Fullwiley, D., Hammonds, E. M., Nelson, A., Quivers, W., Reverby, S. M., Shields, A. E. 2007; 4 (9): 1423-1428

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pmed.0040271

    View details for Web of Science ID 000249768100002

    View details for PubMedID 17896853

  • The Science and Business of Ancestry Testing Science Bolnick, D. A., Fullwiley, D., Duster, T., Cooper, R. S., Fujimura, J. H., Kahn, J., Kaufman, J. S., Marks, J., Morning, A., Nelson, A., Ossorio, P., Reardon, J., Reverby, S. M., TallBear, K. 2007; 318 (5849): 399-400
  • The Molecularization of Race: Institutionalizing Racial Difference in Pharmacogenetics Practice Science as Culture Fullwiley, D. 2007; 16 (1): 1-30
  • Race and Genetics: Attempts to Define the Relationship Biosocieties Fullwiley, D. 2007; 2 (2): 221-237
  • Biosocial Suffering: Order and Illness in Urban West Africa Biosocieties Fullwiley, D. 2006; 1 (4): 421-438
  • Discriminate biopower and everyday biopolitics: views on sickle cell testing in Dakar. Medical anthropology Fullwiley, D. 2004; 23 (2): 157-194


    Many physicians in Senegal and France, where most Senegalese sickle cell specialists are partially trained, assume that genetic testing that could imply selective abortion for people with sickle cell would run counter to the religious and cultural ethics of people living in Dakar. Senegalese affected by this genetic disease, however, often cite "traditional" rationales to indicate why such testing, if offered, might appeal to them. The reluctance of medical practitioners to entertain such testing technologies for their patients evinces a protectionist attitude toward care--an attitude that emerges within a context in which family planning and a blind concentration on HIV/AIDS have created a public health system that completely overlooks sickle cell anemia. This discriminate biopower leaves everyday biopolitics largely in the hands of families faced with this disease. It falls to them to pragmatically calculate the value that genetic testing may, or may not, hold for their own lives.

    View details for PubMedID 15204084

  • Contingencies of illness: the cultural politics of sickle cell trait suffering in Senegal La drépanocytose: Regards croisés sur une maladie orpheline Fullwiley, D. edited by Lainé, A. Paris: Karthala. 2004: 243–277
  • Race, biologie et maladie: Ia difficile organisation des patients atteints de drepanocytose aux Etats-Unis. (Race, Biology, and Illness: Barriers to Sickle Cell Patient Group) Sciences Sociales et Sante Fullwiley, D. 1998; 16 (3): 129-157