C (Keje) Boersma MSc

C (Keje) Boersma MSc


I’m a PhD candidate in philosophy. I explore the question what the concept of the anthropocene or “age of humans” means for our ability to reflect critically on contemporary scientific and technological developments involving human intervention into nature. I conduct this exploration by looking at gene drives, a technology currently developed with the aim of spreading genetic traits throughout wild populations.

While the gene drive debate is permeated by considerations of ethics and responsibility, it lacks a thorough consideration of the particular problem field I envision. Following Preston’s (2017; 2018) suggestion that gene drives are an anthropocene technology, I understand this problem field as revolving around the elusive but important relation between, on the one hand, a debate about an event (the anthropocene) that suggests a newfound understanding of the human-nature relation as the end of the human-nature distinction due to past and present human planetary influence, and, on the other hand, the ontological and moral implications of a particular technoscientific development (gene drives), the intelligibility and meaningfulness of which rely entirely on the idea of nature and the human-nature distinction.

The dissertation consists of two parts. In Part I, I empirically support an account of how current gene development works and is represented through a framing analysis of the gene drive literature and two ethnographic case studies of bioengineering groups working on gene drives. This culminates in a conceptual, STS-inspired chapter (article 1) on the coproduction of science and nature in gene drive development.

Part II is devoted to the philosophical exploration of the aforementioned problem field, and consists of three main chapters (articles 2-4). In the first chapter, I provide an answer to the claim that the anthropocene represents the end-of-nature by suggesting that interventionism is the hallmark of the anthropocene and that interventionism involves hierarchical human-nature relations that are constituted through particular interventions. In the second chapter, I develop an account of an environmental ethic and underlying human-nature understanding for a critical engagement with gene drives as an anthropocene technology. My claim is that the centrality of human interventionism for the anthropocene means that an environmental ethic to go with anthropocene technologies goes a long way towards providing an environmental ethic for the anthropocene more generally. Finally, the third chapter is devoted to the question of the contours of a philosophy of technology to fit anthropocene technologies and the interventionist human-nature relation they involve.

I am supervised by dr. Bernice Bovenkerk (https://www.wur.nl/en/Persons/Bernice-dr.-B-Bernice-Bovenkerk.htm) and dr. David Ludwig (https://www.wur.nl/en/Persons/David-dr.-DJ-David-Ludwig.htm).

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or suggestions about my research: keje.boersma@wur.nl

Watch the video below for an impression of the considerations characterizing the gene drive discussion.