Monday, October 8, 2012

Charis Thompson: "Three Times a Woman: A Gendered Economy of Stem Cell Innovation"

Charis Thompson
It's often argued that the methods of science reflect and reinscribe the theories and contradictions concerning gender and sexuality. In terms of the "stem cell science of gender," the debate engages theories concerning the moral status of the asexual embryo of somatic cell nuclear transfer, and the problem of how one can legitimately characterize the status of an embryo (for which there is no meiosis, no fertilization) within a heteronormative ethical framework. Charis Thompson—professor and chair of the Department of Gender and Women's Studies at UC Berkeley and associate director of the UC Berkeley Center for Science, Technology, and Medicine in Society—has spent her career engaging such bioethical concerns from a plethora of angles, situating the debate in its scientific, technical, moral, political, and financial ramifications. Her work explores the area in terms specific to stem cell research and its legislature, as well as to the bioethics of assisted reproductive technologies. As Thompson argues, social problems are increasingly funneled through questions of biomedicine, and so it has become the task of the bioethicist and the public alike to assess such problems within full view of the "choreography" of biology, society, and the individual, to the broad range of political and moral possibilities inherent in the development of technoscience.

Making Parents: The
Ontological Choreography of
Reproductive Technologies
(MIT Press, 2005)
Beyond inquiry into the ontological status of the asexual embryo and its associated politics, Thompson has argued that the gendering of regenerative (stem cell) medicine as a practice is complicated on two fronts: the rise of egg donation for research as the women's issue and the role of the market (as well as the academy and public) in "procurial" life science. The question of whether egg donor protection is by nature an instrinsic women's issue is further negotiated within the intersection of national and transnational economies, as well as economic health care disparity as it concerns race and class, policy and national health care priorities, and the public interest.

Thompson's upcoming presentation, "Three Times a Woman: A Gendered Economy of Stem Cell Innovation," promises to be a powerful insight into the gendered divisions inherent in the institution of regenerative medical research. The presentation, organized by the UCLA Center for the Study of Women, will be held Wednesday, October 24th, at 3 pm in Humanities 193.

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