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 world of stem cell research, a high-stakes field of rapidly changing innovations that poses difficult technical and ethical challenges for developing immunology. The ethical debates over stem cell research in the United States, combined with historical strengths in livestock breeding in Asia, created an opportunity for the development of stem cell research as a distinctly Asian field. As researchers attempt to use stem cells for modeling diseases, they continue to be haunted by the question of whether and when induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells will ever be viable and useful for developing medicine for autoimmune diseases. Experiments with iPS cell technologies also have larger implications for our changing notions of the cell, the Asian body, and the body politic. Finally, the prominence of researchers of Asian ancestries in cellular research worldwide has led to the view that it is an arena of “Asian” specialty and intra-“Asian” rivalry, thus adding uncertainty to this competitive field.