Biology Unmoored: Melanesian Reflections on Life and Biotechnology

Biology Unmoored: Melanesian Reflections on Life and Biotechnology

Biology Unmoored: Melanesian Reflections on Life and Biotechnology

Biology Unmoored: Melanesian Reflections on Life and Biotechnology

Synopsis

Biology Unmoored is an engaging examination of what it means to live in a world that is not structured in terms of biological thinking. Drawing upon three years of ethnographic research in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, Sandra Bamford describes a world in which physiological reproduction is not perceived to ground human kinship or human beings' relationship to the organic world. Bamford also exposes the ways in which Western ideas about relatedness do depend on a notion of physiological reproduction. Her innovative analysis includes a discussion of the advent of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), the mapping of the human genome, cloning, the commodification of biodiversity, and the manufacture and sale of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Excerpt

Once the genies let the babies into the bottle, it may be impossible to
get them out again.

Leon kass
(1989:347)

TEST-TUBE beginnings

September 12, 1973. Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, New York

At eleven o’clock in the morning, Landrum Brewer Shettles stood in the foyer of this esteemed institution waiting for someone to deliver a package. a recipient of the prestigious Markle Scholarship, Shettles was an established, if somewhat eccentric, New York fertility doctor known for publicizing a number of low-tech methods that he claimed couples could use to predetermine the sex of their baby. the so-called Shettles method entailed everything from taking hot baths to wearing loose underwear to subjecting the prospective mother to unlikely douches with baking soda (to yield a boy) or vinegar (to yield a girl) (Mundy 2004). On this particular day, Shettles had loftier things on his mind. in addition to his work on sex selection, Shettles was trying to gain even greater control over the process of reproduction. in particular, he was experimenting to see whether it might be possible to unite egg and sperm outside the womb. the package he was waiting for could make or break his career.

A few days earlier, Doris Del-Zio and her husband, John, checked in at New York Hospital, luggage in hand. It was a well-worn routine for the Florida couple. On three previous occasions, Doris had visited her fertility specialist, William Sweeney, who had tried to remove obstructions from . . .

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