In 1994, the French government squashed a deal between its world-renowned CEPH genetics laboratory and an American biotech company, citing the loss of French DNA
. If, like most scientifically minded people, you see this as an egregious example of bureaucratic buffoonery at best, or thinly disguised nationalistic racism at worst, anthropologist Paul Rabinow has another point of view well worth considering. Looking broadly at the political, social, and scientific forces combining to shape policy decisions, he shows a complex web of interconnected elements, each with its own inertia, making the government's final decision nearly inevitable.
Rabinow had the unique good fortune to be in France studying CEPH at the time of the decision, so his report contains personal details and insights that never made it into news reports. His own keen observations, grounded in postmodern social theory, are still accessible to those of us who never read Foucault. Incorporating the history of the American and French HIV scandals, France's new, more nationalistic attitudes toward research, and the remnants of colonial attitudes, French DNA explores the neutral territory between science and governance, showing the careful reader that even the strangest results can spring from perfectly sensible decisions, given enough complexity. Rabinow has done a great service to all of us seeking to understand the course of modern science. --Rob Lightner
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From Library Journal
Rabinow has written an interesting book about the failed negotiations between a French genetics lab, the Centre d'?tude du Polymorphisme Humain (CEPH) and Millennium, an American biotech company that wanted its family DNA data on diabetes and obesity. This book is not about the science of molecular biologyAit's a look at how the different ethics of France and America affect the way people and politicians feel about the sanctity of DNA (and blood and organ transfusions). Historical ethical and philosophical discussions, which help explain the French position, are interspersed with a journal of the events Rabinow observed while he was in France in 1994 at the invitation of Daniel Cohen of the CEPH. Rabinow (anthropology, Univ. of California, Berkeley) is the author of French Modern: Norms and Forms of the Social Environment and Making PCR: A Story of Biotechnology. Recommended for ethics and biotechnology collections.AMargaret Henderson, Cold Spring Harbor Academics, NY
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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