Dr. Deborah Bolnick (Department of Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin) is organizing a panel for the 2012 Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (AAPA) on the current state of ethic, legal and social implications of genetic research among indigenous people around the world. More information about the participants, topics, and venue will be posted soon. For more information please visit the AAPA webpage.
Anthropologist Carlos Andrés Barragán will present a talk on the governance of biological tissue coming from indigenous groups located in North-Western Amazonia. This presentation is part of the “Permanent Seminar” organized by the Social Studies of Science, Technology and Medicine Group (GESCTM, in Spanish), at the Universidad Nacional de Colombia. Abstract: Ethnographically, in this paper I follow the making, circulation, and consumption of “ethnic” cell lines coming from several indigenous societies in the Northwestern Amazon. Drawing on past and present local disputes between scientist and indigenous organizations’ leaders over the control of these tissues I dissect the contested articulations coming out of shifting disembodied identities and intellectual property law discourse. Beyond the enunciation of the encounter of different world-views (through the lenses of perspectivism and multinaturalism), I want to frame the exchanges between these actors as the assembling of third spaces, common worlds, where the acknowledgement of coproduction can be more consequential with the search of experimental justice and less hegemonic scientific practices.
The last decade has seen an upsurge of important scholarship in the field of “animal studies.” Under this rubric, scholars with roots in philosophy, anthropology, literature, film, biology, feminist and queer theory, history, geography, and other fields are, in some ways, attempting to recover knowledge territory claimed by and for the natural sciences in the last several hundred years. Given the disciplinary roots of this multidisciplinary field, such scholarship characteristically aims essentially to “dehierarchalize” the relationships of “westerners” with their non-human others. While this move in one sense amplifies the scope of social science and humanities inquiry, it also tends to reinscribe familiar starting points. Not least, much animal studies work can tend to restrict its attention to beings that “live,” e.g. dogs, cattle, bears, mushrooms, microorganisms. This symposium brings together scholars within animal studies who focus on queer and critical race approaches with scholars working within longer-lived strands of study—indigenous approaches to knowing “nonhumans” focused on critiquing settler colonialism and its management of nonhuman others. Some of the scholars also consider human relations with beings classed in dominant frameworks as “nonliving.” Our hope is that their conversation, together with ample opportunity for audience responses and provocations, will generate fruitful intellectual cross-fertilizations.
Panel at the Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S), Tokyo, Japan, August 28th.
In the mid-twentieth century, technological changes in transportation and preservation transformed the body parts of so-called primitive peoples into the material culture of biomedical science. As specimens, these materials circulate through networks of exchange that animate a global scientific community. As Warwick Anderson’s history of Kuru has shown (2008), the mobilization of ‘indigenous’ specimens is a thoroughly biosocial practice, as scientific objects come to stand in for people or even entire communities. It is through ongoing and uneven processes of alienation, transformation and exchange that knowledge, status, and obligation are produced.
This session aims to examine entanglements between populations characterized as indigenous with the scientists who introduced these body parts into global regimes of value. Specifically, the papers will explore and extend Anderson’s arguments in examination of other cases—both historical and contemporary—where indigenous bodily substance has served as a reservoir for research. We ask: What are the historical conditions of possibility that led indigenous body parts to become enrolled in an ongoing project of knowledge production about human health and identity? What are the material legacies of the hundreds of thousands of samples that persist in laboratory freezers around the world? What kinds of technical, ethical, and emotional labor are involved with maintaining these biorepositories? Similarly, what are the implications for how changes in experimental practice, such as PCR and DNA analyses, have led old blood to be used for new purposes? How have postcolonial shifts in value, such as the emerging idea of biological samples as individual or collective cultural property, reconfigured the relationship between scientists and indigenous people? What happens to exchanges when samples are presumed to be inalienable from their source or when they have outlived the bodies from which they were extracted? And how has the scientific circulation of ‘primitive’ body products been affected by a global indigenous movement’s problematization of such practices?
Moving from the lab to the field to the archive and back again, papers in this session will explore these questions from a variety of national perspectives. We aim to further our understanding of how science and technology, and biomedicine in particular, has become increasingly central to the modern constitution of difference, culture and global politics. Specifically, the papers will contribute to developing comparative perspectives in STS that link the biomedical practices and ideas which characterized the colonial frontier with contemporary scientific and cultural contestations for authority that shape today’s frontier technologies of genetic science. By examining different national contexts (Australia, Canada and Colombia), the session will explore the tensions and continuities between ‘colonial’ projects that sought to map biological difference and new biopolitical arrangements and ethical negotiations at stake in the inclusion and participation of indigenous peoples within ‘postcolonial’ biomedical research. Devoting anthropological and historical attention to the traffic of indigenous bodily substance will reveal new dimensions of ethics, citizenship, commerce, policy and social movements in the postcolonial world.
Genomics, Governance, and Indigenous Peoples (November 6-7, 2008) gathered together 12 scholar practitioners to discuss the promise and perils of current efforts to transform indigenous peoples’ governance of genomic research. Invited participants included experts in human genetics and the social, legal, and ethical aspects of genomics in different national and cultural contexts. Individual participants have experience working within existing regimes of governance, and they see a need for policy innovation and change in relation to genomic research. Some participants are already engaged in experimental efforts to create change. Participants engaged in several facilitated dialogues organized around several themes including property, sovereignty, and the “politics of representation” (who represents whom and who decides?) First conceived as a workshop focused on the United States and “tribal” governance of genomics, the workshop has broadened to include scholar practitioners working in other parts of the world in recognition that strategies for governing genomic research cannot be contained by national borders. Workshop outcomes will be relevant for indigenous governance within multiple national contexts. They include an edited, multi-authored volume, and a policy paper focusing on the core themes of the workshop: property and various forms of sovereignty as those are informed by both domestic and international structures of law and policy. The workshop was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF).
Back (left to right): Philip (Sam) Deloria, Brett Lee Shelton, Nanibaa’ Garrison, Terry Powell, Paul Oldham, and Kim TallBear. Front (left to right): Nadja Kanellopoulou, Jenny Reardon, Pilar N. Ossorio, Rebecca Tsosie, Brian Wynne, and Laura Arbour.
College of Law
Arizona State University (ASU)
Kim TallBear (University of California, Berkeley, UCB)
Jenny Reardon (University of California, Santa Cruz, UCSC)
Rebecca Tsosie (Arizona State University, ASU)