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 explores the theme of how bioethics and other regulatory regimes can reduce uncertainty surrounding the viability of a biomedical initiative. The chapter follows Asian researchers in their own working through of the limits and contradictions in a universalized ethical framework as it plays out in their various fields and sites. In contrast to a focus on bioethical violations in the emerging world, scientists in Southeast Asia view global international bioethical regulations as inadequate in at least two ways. Bioethical guidelines such as informed consent, they argue, are not able in practice to address the substantive needs of indigenous donors. Second, the application of bioethics alone does not guarantee normative conditions that regulate any reputable biomedical science endeavor. Rather, in a brutally competitive pharmaceutical world, competitive centers must develop informational, research, and business infrastructures for accessing data and samples, undertaking reputable experiments, and protecting intellectual property. Biopolis illuminates how bioethical procedures must be embedded in a biomedical platform, facilitated by cross-cultural skills to mediate between Asian patients and scientists on one hand, and mainly Western companies on the other.