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French DNA: Trouble in Purgatory Paperback – November 1, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0226701516 ISBN-10: 0226701514

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: University Of Chicago Press (November 1, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0226701514
  • ISBN-13: 978-0226701516
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.1 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,458,855 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

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 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 12, 1999
Format: Hardcover
I really loved Rabinow's MAKING PCR, about the process of developing this major biotech tool (and probably a more accurate look at Kary Mullis than he gives in his own autobiography). FRENCH DNA is a terrific book in a different way. Rabinow tells an exciting and sobering story, virtually a who-done-it, and along the way he raises important questions about what genetic material really is, who owns it, what it means to have international research collaborations, and what biotechnology means to individuals and nations. A fascinating book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By "conejo747" on January 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I found the idea of an anthropologist having the opportunity to observe operations in a French biotech institution as things unfolded very enticing. At times I wished that I had a better background in philosophy since Rabinow makes frequent references to certain philosophers in a few chapters which I found a bit challenging to read. Nevertheless, the event that Rabinow covers is an interesting one, and he gives a very good picture of how the French view bioscience, the human body, and the commercialization of biotech products. In particular I enjoyed his descriptions and insights on the interactions of the people involved in the event and how they fit in the overall context of French society.
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Format: Hardcover
In a press interview, Paul Rabinow made a rather harsh comment about his former mentor Clifford Geertz. "He was mapping out a theory of culture," he said of the author of The Interpretation of Cultures. "Then in the 70's the guy just imploded. He mysteriously stopped in his tracks." Paul Rabinow is the anthropologist who kept on running. Trained in the classical mold of participant observation in a distant terrain, he subverted the model by turning his ethnography of a Moroccan town into an introvert Reflection on Fieldwork in Morocco. When other anthropologists were turning to campus politics and post-modern deconstruction, he made a foray into contemporary philosophy and, together with Hubert Dreyfus, he wrote the definitive reader on Michel Foucault. He then went on to chair the anthropology department at UC Berkeley, a hotbed of creativity and scholarly advance.

Even within anthropology, it is difficult to pin Rabinow into one category. He made major contributions to post-colonial studies by analyzing - in French Modern: Norms and Forms of the Social Environment - how urban planning and spatial control of populations in Morocco were turned into laboratories of modernity. Since the 1990s, his research concentrates on the social study of science and technology, but he also contributes to methodological debates about the future of anthropology. Contrary to the claim made about Clifford Geertz, he doesn't rest on his accumulated intellectual capital. He even took a class in molecular biology to keep abreast of the developments in the discipline he was observing.
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By A Customer on January 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I found the idea of an anthropologist having the opportunity to observe operations in a French biotech institution as things unfolded very enticing. At times I wished that I had a better background in philosophy since Rabinow makes frequent references to certain philosophers in a few chapters which I found challenging to read. Nevertheless, the event that Rabinow covers is an interesting one, and he gives a very good picture of how the French view bioscience, the human body, and the commercialization of biotech products. In particular I enjoyed his descriptions and insights on the interactions of the people involved in the event and how it fit in the overall context of French society.
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French DNA: Trouble in Purgatory
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