Fungible Life: Experiment in the Asian City of Life
Aihwa Ong is Robert H. Lowie Distinguished Chair in Anthropology at the University of California, Berkeley, the author of Neoliberalism as Exception: Mutations in Citizenship and Sovereignty and Flexible Citizenship: The Cultural Logics of Transnationality, and the coeditor of Asian Biotech: Ethics and Communities of Fate, all also published by Duke University Press.
This chapter introduces the author’s family stories of cancer as a way to present oncology’s recognition of the genetic diversity of this class of diseases. The main focus is on how the Singaporean focus on Asian cancer research generates “contrary affects” of anxiety and optimism. Singapore is promoting itself as a site for Asian oncology. Coincidentally, the successful testing of the drug Iressa for small-cell lung cancer in Asian subjects was conducted in Hong Kong. Led by Singapore, Asian biomedical communities have become interested in discovering ethnic biomarkers for Asian-type cancers. Besides the economic gain from clinical trials and novel drugs, the rise of Asian oncology responds to and is affected by feelings of fear and optimism that come from the intellectual ownership of a class of serious diseases that has gained epidemic proportions. For physician-researchers, controlling Asian cancers is an advanced way of caring for “our bodies, ourselves.”