Natali Valdez

Natali’s work examines the production of scientific knowledge with an attention to race and gender. She applies a feminist lens on the emergent field of epigentics, which is part of the postgenomic era that explores how the environment can stimulate changes in gene regulation and expression. Natali studies how women’s bodies and reproduction writ large are a locus of experimentation, control, and treatment in the name of epigenetic science.
She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine. Natali is currently working on her first book (working title "Weighing the Future: An Ethnographic Examination of Epigenetics and Prenatal Interventions"). The book will draw from ethnographic data collected at two clinical trials, one in the United States and one in the United Kingdom, which test nutritional interventions on ethnically diverse pregnant women deemed obese. Both trials draw from epigenetic theories claiming that women who are obese during pregnancy will have children at higher risk of obesity and diabetes. The book will contribute a critical understanding to how epigenetics is changing the way women are monitored and treated during pregnancy. 

While at Rice, Natali will continue to work on her book project and begin preliminary research on her second project. She aims to explore the expanding field of clinical trials that aim to recruit women before conception. These trials intend to monitor and control fetal development earlier and earlier. Drawing from medical anthropology, reproductive justice, science and technology studies, and gender studies, Natali aims to examine how epigenetic science uses biopolitical methods of surveillance in new ways for clinical trial research.