Cultural Epigenetics and the Philosophy of Change

Ljå Forlag (2021)



The term ‘ricochet’ is a means to discuss unintended consequences, rapidly delivered information and viral outbreaks, but it is also used to describe the way in which sound echoes or reverberates against objects in space.

As the saying goes, genetics loads the gun and the environment pulls the trigger. Initiated during the return of politicised radical hatred across the globe in 2017, the author set out to understand how Far Right ideas had begun to mutate. What he discovered throws light on mechanisms of cultural imperialism and hegemony that stretch all the way back to the Fertile Crescent of 12,000 years ago, with consequences for the urban environments of future and current generations.

The book centres around two forms of biological change: organic mutation and the more recent field of epigenetics. Where Darwinian evolution highlights the importance of different mutations that are then selected, creating new species, epigenetics looks at the ‘epi’ genetic chemical tags which sit ‘above’ the genes and determine how they are interpreted.

The study of causation between our environment and the genes we humans pass on to the next generation through epigenetic tags, is still very young. However, abusive or otherwise toxic environments during childhood have been shown to affect a person’s cell behaviour with consequences in later life and it is epigenetic silencing or activation that carries that abuse into the body’s cells.

Culture, it is argued, alters not only our minds, but also the very bodies in which we live.  

It is important to note that the work of cultural epigenetics developed here argues for the determination of human biology by culture and not the other way around. That cultural expressions can be shown to replicate in cyclical patterns over time does not mean that they are inevitable.

Intertwining these fields of investigation the author draws on the work of Hannah Arendt, Ibram Xolani Kendi, Judith Butler and others to develop a philosophy of change grounded in comparative cultural anthropology.

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© 2021 Ljå Forlag
1st edition, 2021

Ljå no. 7
ISBN: 978-82-999761-6-9

Design: Jørn Aagaard
Printing: Merkur Grafisk, Oslo
Paper: Munken Lynx
Typeface: Plantin and Nimbus

Political and historical editors: Tyler Fox, Lotta Schäfer
Scientific editor: Dr. Wilson

Photo credits

139, 149

Andreas Siekmann

242, 244, 250

Arturo Alejandro Calderón Guardado


Hendra A Setyawan