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Reports

Films and Conferences

Soheila Shahshahani and Mikaela Rogozen-Soltar

FILMS

Sheikholeslam Mahvash, Koul Farah

CONFERENCES

‘Islam and the Biotechnologies of Human Life’, 18–20 September 2009, Yale University, New Haven, CT, United States

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Kuang-Yi Ku

scenarios, the Tiger Penis Project proposes the use of emerging biotechnologies to create artificial animal parts for Chinese medicine. Combining western and Chinese medicine and technologies, this new hybrid medicine prevents the further destruction of both

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Introduction

Toward a Queer Sinofuturism

Ari Heinrich, Howard Chiang, and Ta-wei Chi

biotechnology, “Queer Sinofuturisms” aims to counter pervasive techno-Orientalist discourses, such as those discourses in the Blade Runner movies (Ridley Scott, 1982; and Denis Villeneuve, 2017) that frame “Asian” futures as strictly dystopian

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Gabriele Mueller

This article examines two German films which, in different ways, engage with ethical questions raised by scientific advances in biotechnology and the specter of eugenics: Blueprint (Rolf Schübel, 2003), an adaptation of Charlotte Kerner's Blaupause, and The Elementary Particles (Elementarteilchen, Oskar Roehler, 2006), a cinematic interpretation of Michel Houellebecq's novel with the same title. Assuming different positions, the films contribute to the divisive public debate surrounding human cloning. Their visions vacillate between dystopian warnings of a commodification of human existence and euphoric promises of the potential to genetically erase human flaws forever. The films' main concern, however, is a critique of ideological positions associated with the generation of 1968, and the directors use the debate on genetics to infuse this discussion with an element of radicalism. This article explores the ways in which the films engage with the memory discourse in Germany through the lens of discourses on ethics and biotechnology.

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Kerry Whiteside

In December 1996, the European Union gave its authorization to sell transgenic corn for consumption and cultivation in Europe. Some EU memberstates, notably Austria and Italy, refused to allow any imports of genetically modified organisms (“GMOs” or “OGM” in French). Resistance of that sort was unexpected from France. In Europe, France was originally the country most interested in advancing research and applications in the area of agricultural biotechnology. Before GMOs became a matter of public controversy, France led Europe in deliberate release trials.

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The Genetic Commons

Resisting the Neo-liberal Enclosure of Life

Stephen B. Scharper and Hilary Cunningham

The notion of a ‘genetic commons’ is a broad-based, multi-faceted response to a particular constellation of technological, cultural, economic, political, ethical, and legal developments of the past three decades. Prompted principally by advances in biotechnology and the heretofore unprecedented patenting of life forms, the genetic commons movement seeks to critique and resist the commodification and commercialization of ‘nature’ and to establish a cosmological and political space outside of, and protected from, neo-liberal capitalist processes.

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Gwyn Williams

This paper explores the rights-based cosmopolitanism of French anti-GM activists and their challenge to the neoliberal cosmopolitanism of the World Trade Organization and multinational corporations. Activists argue that genetic modification, patents, and WTO-brokered free trade agreements are the means by which multinationals deny people fundamental rights and seek to dominate global agriculture. Through forms of protest, which include cutting down field trials of genetically modified crops, activists resist this agenda of domination and champion the rights of farmers and nations to opt out of the global agricultural model promoted by biotechnology companies. In so doing, they defend the local. This defense, however, is based on a cosmopolitan discourse of fundamental rights and the common good. I argue that activists' cosmopolitan perspective does not transcend the local but is intimately related to a particular understanding of it.

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Introduction

Kinship in the Middle East

Soheila Shahshahani and Soraya Tremayne

The study of kinship remains central to anthropology and to understanding the social world in which we live. Although key debates on kinship have stayed embedded in anthropological studies, the impact of global changes affecting marriage, divorce, family structure, and the inevitable consequences of the interaction between biotechnologies and social and cultural practices have all served to bring back kinship into anthropological discourse in a forceful way. As a result, there is a tendency to move away from the distinction between the biological and social aspects of kinship and to focus on emerging forms of relatedness and their broader implications. In such an approach, relatedness is viewed as a process that is fluid and mutable, and that is constructed through active human agency. It expands to include changing gender relations, new family forms and the outcome of assisted reproductive technologies.

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From Purgatory to Sentinel

'Forms/Events' in the Field of Zoonoses

Frédéric Keck

This article discusses Paul Rabinow's notion of 'form/event' in the light of the current management of Avian Influenza in Hong Kong. While this notion allows the study of how life sciences produce events by turning scarcity of material into abundance of information, Paul Rabinow applied it to the scene of biotechnologies where values about life are suspended in what he calls purgatory. I suggest that, for the anticipation of epidemics from the animal reservoir, the form/event is not a suspension of values but a communication by signs in what I call, following Hong Kong microbiologists, a sentinel. Moving from purgatory to sentinel in the field of biosecurity opens a plurality of scales at which events happen, and transforms the model of subjectivity, from pastoral care to hunting relationships. This theoretical shift sheds light on the ethnography of Avian Flu in Hong Kong, where birdwatchers have allied with microbiologists to practise animal surveillance.

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The Ends of the Earth

Nature, Narrative, and Identity in Dystopian Film

Rowland Hughes

This article offers an ecocritical reading of four dystopian films, two from the early 1970s and two from the late 1990s: Silent Running, Soylent Green, eXistenZ, and Gattaca. In particular, it interprets these films – which variously predict the probable ramifications of environmental catastrophe and biotechnological progress – in relation to contrasting conceptualizations of 'nature' that might broadly be termed either the 'postmodern' or 'ecological'. It argues that despite the genre's apparent preoccupation with technologically advanced, virtual or urban environments, the concept of 'nature' and 'the natural' remains crucial to dystopian cinema's characteristic critique of authoritarian power structures that restrict individual self-expression, and its interrogation of human individuality and selfhood. Moreover, it suggests that even self- consciously postmodern dystopias are rooted in the experience of embodiment, and point towards a reconceptualized idea of 'the natural' that is shaped by, and often fused with, technology.