Steadily increasing numbers of Americans have been diagnosed
with asthma in recent years, attracting the attention of biomedical
researchers, including those searching for a genetic link to the
disease. The high rate of asthma among African American children
has made race significant to this search for genetic
predisposition. One of the primary sites for this research today is
Barbados. The Caribbean nation is considered optimal because of its
predominantly black population. At the same time, the government of
Barbados has promoted the country for such research in an attempt
to take part in the biomedical future.
In Biomedical Ambiguity, Ian Whitmarsh describes how he
followed a team of genetic researchers to Barbados, where he did
fieldwork among not only the researchers but also government
officials, medical professionals, and the families being tested.
Whitmarsh reveals how state officials and medical professionals
make the international biomedical research part of state care,
bundling together categories of disease populations, biological
race, and asthma. He points to state and industry perceptions of
mothers as medical caretakers in genetic research that proves to be
inextricable from contested practices around nation, race, and
The reader's attention is drawn to the ambiguity in these
practices, as researchers turn the plurality of ethnic identities
and illness meanings into a science of asthma and race at the same
time that medical practitioners and families make the opaque
science significant to patient experience. Whitmarsh shows that the
contradictions introduced by this "misunderstanding" paradoxically
enable the research to move forward.
Table of Contents
You are viewing the table of contents
You do not have access to this
on JSTOR. Try logging in through your institution for access.