Asian Biotech

Ethics and Communities of Fate

Asian Biotech

Experimental Futures

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Book Pages: 344 Illustrations: 3 illustrations Published: November 2010

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Asian Studies, Science and Technology Studies

Providing the first overview of Asia’s emerging biosciences landscape, this timely and important collection brings together ethnographic case studies on biotech endeavors such as genetically modified foods in China, clinical trials in India, blood collection in Singapore and China, and stem-cell research in Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. While biotech policies and projects vary by country, the contributors identify a significant trend toward state entrepreneurialism in biotechnology, and they highlight the ways that political thinking and ethical reasoning are converging around the biosciences. As ascendant nations in a region of postcolonial emergence, with an “uncanny surplus” in population and pandemics, Asian countries treat their populations as sources of opportunity and risk. Biotech enterprises are allied to efforts to overcome past humiliations and restore national identity and political ambition, and they are legitimized as solutions to national anxieties about food supplies, diseases, epidemics, and unknown biological crises in the future. Biotechnological responses to perceived risks stir deep feelings about shared fate, and they crystallize new ethical configurations, often re-inscribing traditional beliefs about ethnicity, nation, and race. As many of the essays in this collection illustrate, state involvement in biotech initiatives is driving the emergence of “biosovereignty,” an increasing pressure for state control over biological resources, commercial health products, corporate behavior, and genetic based-identities. Asian Biotech offers much-needed analysis of the interplay among biotechnologies, economic growth, biosecurity, and ethical practices in Asia.

Vincanne Adams
Nancy N. Chen
Stefan Ecks
Kathleen Erwin
Phuoc V. Le
Jennifer Liu
Aihwa Ong
Margaret Sleeboom-Faulkner
Kaushik Sunder Rajan
Wen-Ching Sung
Charis Thompson
Ara Wilson


Asian Biotech…offers readers a variety of methods and conclusions…[which] yield some provocative and original theoretical work.” — Mara Mills, Women's Studies Quarterly

“Wonderfully suggestive in its breadth and scope, Asian Biotech ultimately serves as a much-needed introductory effort, and should prove to be of enormous interest to scholars of STS, as well as those working on any aspect of contemporary Asia. It will no doubt prove influential to subsequent scholarship appearing in the related fields of globalization and the life sciences, especially as other nations situated outside the traditional scientific centers continue to desire participation in these new types of economic and bio-ventures.” — John P. DiMoia, Theory, Culture & Society

Asian Biotech is a thoughtful examination of Asia’s biotechnology development. The call to understand this realm in terms of situated ethics and communities of fate is persuasive and invites the analysis of more cases to test the robustness of these concepts.” — Wen-Hua Kuo, The China Quarterly

“[T]his book performs coverage of a region and a complicated sector of the twenty-frst-century economy, and it will certainly prove useful to those interested in globalized medicine and the fast-changing norms regulating research in biomedicine.” — Thomas Cannavino, Cultural Critique

“What bioethicists could learn from anthropological investigations like those presented in this volume is that one should consider the social and cultural contexts in which the practice to be ethically assessed is embedded in order to understand the the practice more thoroughly. And it is this more thorough understanding which will lead to a more nuanced and better refined ethical judgment.” — Soraj Hongladarom, Genomics, Society and Policy

“I for one would strongly recommend this interesting volume to anyone interested in gaining a better understanding of biotech in Asia.” — Krishna Ravi Srinivas, Asian Biotech and Development Review

“This timely and important collection by science-studies scholars provides fascinating glimpses into the ambitious efforts of several Asian countries to deploy biotechnologies to both generate economic growth and provide biosecurity in this age of global science and technology.” — Doogab Yi, Chemical Heritage

“The need in science studies and anthropology for Asian Biotech would be hard to overstate. I was hungry for this book to use in my own teaching and writing, and the meal is as satisfying as I had anticipated. The theoretical framing is astute and generative, and the well-argued and diverse essays are thoroughly fleshed out historically and ethnographically. Nancy N. Chen, Aihwa Ong, and the contributors deserve our thanks. We have just run out of excuses for ongoing Western parochialism in science and technology studies and all of our kindred inquiries into biotechnology.” — Donna Haraway, author of When Species Meet

“This exciting collection of ethnographic essays introduces readers to the deployment of specific biotechnologies in Asia, revealing their enmeshment with local and global politics and a situated ethics that extends to the good of families, communities, and nations, and not merely that of individuals. This book, harbinger of impending futures, demands introspection.” — Margaret Lock, author of Twice Dead: Organ Transplants and the Reinvention of Death

”This is the first broad anthropological examination of the biotech movement across Asia. Especially useful are the efforts at understanding how biotechnology affects (and is affected by) major changes in moral experience and ethical imagination that are roiling Asian modernities. A pathbreaking exploration! This collection will be influential.” — Arthur Kleinman, Director, Asia Center, Harvard University


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Aihwa Ong is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Neoliberalism as Exception: Mutations in Citizenship and Sovereignty and Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality, both also published by Duke University Press.

Nancy N. Chen is Professor of Anthropology at Scripps College. She is the author of Food, Medicine, and the Quest for Good Health and Breathing Spaces: Qigong, Psychiatry, and Healing in China.

Table of Contents Back to Top

Introduction: An Analytics of Ethics and Biotechnology at Multiple Scales / Aihwa Ong 1

Part I. Excess and Opportunity

The Experimental Machinery of Global Clinical Trials: Case Studies from India / Kaushik Sunder Rajan 55

Feeding the Nation: Chinese Biotechnology and Genetically Modified Foods / Nancy N. Chen 81

Part II. Bioventures

Asian Regeneration? Nationalism and Internationalism in Stem Cell Research in South Korea and Singapore / Charis Thompson 95

Medical Tourism in Thailand / Ara Wilson 118

Near-Liberalism: Global Corporate Citizenship and Pharmaceutical Marketing in India / Stefan Ecks 144

Part III. Communities of Fate

Governing through Blood: Biology, Donation, and Exchange in Urban China / Vincanne Adams, Kathleen Erwin, and Phouc V. Le 167

Lifelines: The Ethics of Blood Banking for Family and Beyond / Aihwa Ong 190

Embryo Controversies and Governing Stem Cell Research in Japan: How to Regulate Regenerative Futures / Margaret Sleeboom-Faulkner 215

Part IV. Biosovereignty: Mappings of Chineseness

Making Taiwanese (Stem Cells): Identity, Genetics, and Hybridity / Jennifer A. Liu 239

Chinese DNA: Genomics and Bionations / Wen-ching Sung 263

Afterword: Asia's Biotech Bloom / Nancy N. Chen 293

Bibliography 301

Contributors 319

Index 323
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4809-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4793-4
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