Biology Unmoored

Biology Unmoored: Melanesian Reflections on Life and Biotechnology

Sandra Bamford
Copyright Date: 2007
Edition: 1
Pages: 245
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/j.ctt1pn739
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  • Book Info
    Biology Unmoored
    Book Description:

    Biology Unmooredis 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).

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93947-9
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction: Conceptual Frameworks
    (pp. 1-19)

    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)....

  6. ONE Cultural Landscapes
    (pp. 20-45)

    August 26, 2001, was a sunny and warm day in southern France. Shortly after noon, a group of men and women began to convene on a small plot of land near the rural town of Auch, a region well known for its culinary delights and picturesque beauty. A distinctly festive atmosphere prevailed. Many arrived on the scene with picnic baskets brimming with Roquefort cheese, foie gras, potted duck, and other regional specialties. To look at the smiling faces in the crowd, one would think it was a belated Bastille Day celebration, rather than the inauguration of a clandestine operation that...

  7. TWO Insubstantial Identities
    (pp. 46-79)

    In the summer of 2002, newspapers throughout Europe and North America featured the story of a young white woman—known only as Mrs. A—who had given birth to black twins in the United Kingdom. Mrs. A and her husband had been undergoing a treatment for infertility known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection at the Assisted Conception Unit of Leeds General Infirmary (L. Taylor 2002; M. Taylor 2002). The procedure involves harvesting eggs from the mother, fertilizing them outside the womb with live sperm taken from the father, and implanting the resulting embryos in the womb of the intended mother-to-be. Despite...

  8. THREE Embodiments of Detachment
    (pp. 80-116)

    In October 1986, the San Diego District Attorney’s Office issued a court order for Pamela Rae Stewart to appear before the bench. Stewart, a twenty-seven-year-old mother of three, was charged with criminal neglect for contributing to the death of her newborn son by failing to follow her doctor’s advice before the infant’s birth.

    The case against Pamela Rae Stewart is believed to have been the first in North America in which a woman was charged with criminal liability for her conduct during pregnancy.¹ According to court testimony, Ms. Stewart suffered from a medical condition known asplacenta previa,in which...

  9. FOUR (Im)Mortal Undertakings
    (pp. 117-149)

    On February 23, 1997, the world woke up to a technological innovation that “shook the foundations of Western biology and philosophy” (Silver 1997: 91). On that day, Ian Wilmut and his colleagues (1997) at Roslin Institute in Scotland announced the existence of Dolly—a six-month-old lamb who had been cloned from a single cell taken from the mammary gland of a Finn-Dorset ewe (Campbell et al. 1996; Wilmut, Campbell, and Tudge 2000; Wilmut et al. 2002). Although scientists had been cloning sheep and cattle from embryo donor cells for well over a decade (Pennisi and Williams 1997; Wills 1998), the...

  10. FIVE Conceiving Global Identities
    (pp. 150-168)

    “Racing the clock, two leaders in genetics and evolution are calling for an urgent effort to collect DNA fromrapidly disappearingindigenous people” (Roberts 1991:1614; italics added). These words are the first byline in an article by Leslie Roberts, entitled “A Genetic Survey of Vanishing People,” which highlights the purported significance of the Human Genome Diversity Project (HGDP). Published in the popular journalScience,the paper goes on to describe the seemingly heroic efforts of a dedicated team of researchers (mostly population geneticists and evolutionary biologists) whose intent is to document the “ethnic fingerprints” (R. Lewin 1993:25) of some five...

  11. Conclusion: Conceptual Displacements
    (pp. 169-178)

    Bipahu, Patura, Wilimal, and I are seated around the slowly ebbing fire that burns in my haus kuk (kitchen). The evening is cool. We sip tea to ward off the evening chill and contemplate an issue that has been troubling Wilimal for the past few weeks. Wilimal is in the process of planning a feast that he intends to present to his in-laws in three days’ time. The intended recipients of the feast are the mother and father of his first wife, Itipaney, a woman to whom he has been married for approximately six years. Wilimal frets, as he has...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 179-190)
  13. REFERENCES
    (pp. 191-218)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 219-230)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 231-231)