Epigenetics and Politics in the Colonial Present

Karen Bridget Murray


This article examines politics and epigenetics in Canada’s colonial present, with a particular emphasis on British Columbia. The empirical focus is the creation and application of the epigenetically-grounded Early Development Instrument (EDI). It demonstrates how the EDI operated as a mediating device for a constellation of concerns while shaping novel systems of governing trained prominently on the eugenic-based classification of “vulnerable Aboriginal children.” This process created a market for vulnerability knowledge produced through data scraped from assessments of the minds, bodies, and souls of children. The research highlights potential ramifications for Indigenous Peoples’ territorial sovereignty and jurisdiction over their children. By doing so, it demonstrates the empirical and theoretical flaws of ignoring the colonial present in evaluations of political and epigenetics. At the same time, it underscores the importance of training more attention on the EDI, which has travelled to more than 30 countries across the Global North and South, many of which are entangled in colonialist dynamics.


Epigenetics; Early Development Instrument; Vulnerable Populations; Territory; Indigenous Peoples.