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  1. Jun 2015
    1. One of the women in the Australian Shepherd breed is C.A. Sharp, she got her BA in RTF, has no formal genetics education, works as an accountant, was a breeder of Australian Shepherds who have nothing to do with Australia, they’re actually Western U.S. ranch dogs, they’re only called Australian through the Basque Sheep herders who immigrated to Australia during the same period. Sharp is an activist in the breed, and as a lay-activist publishes the Double Helix Network News, which organizes the breed interest in genetic health and disease issues. She and a friend organized a series of test-breedings around a certain eye disease which she was quite certain Australian Shepherds were subject to but which vets and geneticists denied. They designed an excellent data set to prove a point and then solicited a scientist to publish it under his name so that it could become a fact in the literature. There is a very savvy manipulation of scientific credibility in this story. It was also very clear that to make a fact a fact in an effective way, that is to say something that people will act on, requires also the emotional support system that would allow a breeder the chance not to feel stigmatized by the genetic disease of his or her dog. Thus, the emotional economy of the stabilization of a fact was also quite deliberately engaged as part of the work of doing genetics in this breed. It’s a complex sociality: the research design, the mating design, the alliance with veterinary opthamologists, with biochemical geneticists, with people who will form support groups, the alliance with the breed group movers and shakers to get a certain degree of openness. I was fascinated by the management of the material culture of making a fact whole, namely that these dogs are subject to this eye anomaly and that an action has to be taken. The kind of everyday story of what constitutes a fact, its literary material and social technologies is in Sharp’s practice in an extremely interesting way.

      This is terrifically well limned; I want to put this lens to any number of situations in which facts are made and used, especially around the way trees are done by botanists, arborists, and gardeners.