Cyborg stem cells in public: deconstructing and taking responsibility for categorizations



Publication Details

Marks, N. J. (2012). 'Cyborg stem cells in public: deconstructing and taking responsibility for categorizations'. New Genetics and Society, 31 (4), 359-384.


“Cyborg” entities do not easily fit into pre-existing categories and can therefore be useful in deconstructing these categories and showing their contingency and political power. In this paper, some cyborg stem cells are examined. They were discussed in Australian public debates as well as during interviews with scientists. Multiple ways of making sense of them are possible, but one became dominant, was inscribed in Australian parliamentary documents and may now seem to be a simple reflection of nature. By showing other possible categorizations and highlighting the contingency and ambiguity of concepts such as “embryo,” or “fetus,” the established definition of these cells is contested. In particular, the way it can displace conversations about women's bodies and the use in research of material from terminations is highlighted. Alternative stem cell categorizations are put forward; these are not “innocent” either, but may offer fruitful ways of talking about this area of techno-science in public.

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