Academic Profile

Ian McGonigle is a Nanyang Assistant Professor in the Division of Sociology at Nanyang Technological University (NTU), where he founded and directs a Global Science, Technology, and Society Laboratory. Before joining NTU, he held postdoctoral positions at Tel Aviv University, Harvard University, and the University of Cambridge.

Ian received a BA in Biochemistry with Cell Biology from Trinity College Dublin in 2007; a PhD in Biochemistry from the University of Cambridge in 2010; an MA in Cultural Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 2013; and an AM in Social Anthropology, in 2015, and a PhD in Middle Eastern Studies and Anthropology, in 2018, from Harvard University.

As a biologist, Ian worked on resolving the structure-function relationships of ligand-gated ion channels, through site-directed mutagenesis studies, computational modelling, and electrophysiological and pharmacological assays. His work helped reveal the molecular basis of the selective insecticidal activity of Ginkgo biloba, an ancient Chinese herbal medicine. He also helped identify a novel agonist binding mechanism in an insect GABA receptor involving a double cation-pi interaction. His work was published in top scientific journals including Biochemistry, Biophysical Journal, The FASEB Journal, and The Journal of Neuroscience.

Ian’s work in the social study of science circles the role of science in identity formation and nation-building, taking two broad approaches: One set of projects has examined the ways biology refracts and reiterates individual and group ethnic and national identities, as, for example, in genetic testing, in intellectual property rights to ethnomedical knowledge, or natural product consumption. The second major line of work examines the ways states enrol the biosciences to build up national scientific prestige and to foster a vision of prosperous and healthy futures through initiatives such as national genome programs, national biobanks, or national scientific development plans. Together, these two bodies of research reveal the privileged role of biology in mediating ethnic and national identities and, consequently, in stabilizing national consciousnesses. His book, Genomic Citizenship (MIT Press 2021), based on his Harvard dissertation that won the Association for Middle East Anthropology dissertation award, expands on this theme and theorizes these relationships.

Recently he produced and directed a multi-award-winning ethnographic film - titled Redemption - about religious nationalism in Israel. He is currently producing a second film about technology and culture in Singapore, the ‘Smart Nation.’

He teaches social theory, an upper-level undergraduate seminar on science and identity; and a lecture course on societies in a comparative perspective that draws on empirical material from Israel, Qatar, and Singapore.
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Asst Prof Ian McGonigle
Nanyang Assistant Professor, School of Social Sciences

Ethnopharmacology; Middle Eastern Societies; Philosophical Anthropology; Religious Nationalism; Science, Technology, & Society
  • COVID-19 and Racisim: Preventing Discrimination in the Age of Precision Medicine

  • The Molecularization of Identity: Science and Nation Building in the 21st Century
  • McGonigle, I. (2022) Review of ‘Mobilizing Mutations: Human Genetics in the Age of Patient Advocacy’ by Daniel Navon. Journal of the History of Biology 10.1007/s10739-021-09659-0

    R. Cheung, S. Jolly, M. Vimal, H. Kim, and I. McGonigle (2022) ‘Who’s Afraid of Genetic Tests?’: An Assessment of Singapore’s Public Attitudes and Changes in Attitudes After Taking a Genetic Test. BMC Medical Ethics 23:5

    Vimal, M., W.P. Devi, and I. McGonigle (2021) GenomeAsia100K: Singapore Builds National Science with Asian DNA. East Asian Science, Technology and Society

    Vimal, M., W.P. Devi, and I. McGonigle (2021) Generational Medicine in Singapore: A National Biobank for a Greying Nation. East Asian Science, Technology and Society

    McGonigle, I. [Director/Producer] (2021) Redemption: Wine and Prophecy in the Land of Israel. [An ethnographic film on religious nationalism in Israel] (77 min).

    McGonigle, I. (2021) Genomic Citizenship: The Molecularization of Identity in the Contemporary Middle East. Cambridge MA: MIT Press. ISBN: 9780262542944

    Jasanoff, S., McGonigle, I., and H. Stevens (2021) Science and Technology for Humanity: An STS view from Singapore. East Asian Science, Technology and Society 15(1): 68-78.

    Pandian, S., S. Jolly, and I. McGonigle (2021) ‘Singapore Country Report,’ In S. Jasanoff et al. (Eds), 84-88. Comparative Covid Response: Crisis, Knowledge, Politics: Interim Report. New York: Schmidt Futures.

    McGonigle, I (2020) Biobanking and “Qatarization”: Ethno-national Identity in the Molecular Realm,’ In Schwarz and Williams (Eds.), 156-170. Studies on the Social Construction of Identity and Authenticity. London: Routledge.

    McGonigle, I. (2020) National Biobanking in Qatar and Israel: Tracing how Global Scientific Institutions Mediate Local Ethnic Identities. Science, Technology & Society 26(1): 146–165.

    Chang, C. and I. McGonigle (2020) Kopi Culture: Consumption, Conservatism and Cosmopolitanism amongst Singapore’s Millennials. Asian Anthropology 19(3): 213-231.

    McGonigle, I. (2019) Genomic Data and the Dividual Self. Genetics Research 101(e12).

    McGonigle, I. (2019) In Vino Veritas? Indigenous Wine and Indigenization in Israeli Settlements. Anthropology Today 35(4): 7-12.

    McGonigle, I., and S.C Schuster (2019) Global Science Meets Ethnic Diversity: Ian McGonigle interviews GenomeAsia100k Scientific Chairman Stephan Schuster. Genetics Research 101(e5).

    McGonigle, I.V. (2017) Spirits and Molecules: Ethnopharmacology and Symmetrical Epistemological Pluralism. Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology 82(1): 139-164.

    McGonigle, I.V. and R. Benjamin (2016) The Molecularization of Identity: Science and Subjectivity in the 21st Century. Genetics Research 98(e12).

    McGonigle, I.V. (2016) Patenting Nature or Protecting Culture? Ethnopharmacology and Indigenous Intellectual Property Rights. The Journal of Law and the Biosciences 3(1): 217-226.

    McGonigle, I.V. (2016) The Collective Nature of Personalized Medicine. Genetics Research 98(e3).

    McGonigle, I.V. and N. Shomron (2016) Privacy, Anonymity, and Subjectivity, in Genomic Research. Genetics Research 98(e2).

    McGonigle, I.V. (2015) ‘Jewish Genetics’ and the ‘Nature’ of Israeli Citizenship. Transversal: Journal for Jewish Studies 13(2): 90–102.

    McGonigle, I.V. and L. Herman (2015) Genetic Citizenship: DNA Testing and the Israeli Law of Return. The Journal of Law and the Biosciences 2(2): 469-478.

    McGonigle, I.V. (2013) Khat: Chewing on a Bitter Controversy. Anthropology Today 29(4): 4-7.