Science Stories: Selecting the Source Animal for Xenotransplantation
Cook, Peta S. (2006) Science Stories: Selecting the Source Animal for Xenotransplantation. In Hall, Carly & Hopkinson, Chanel (Eds.) Social Change in the 21st Century Conference, 27th October 2006, Brisbane, Australia.
Xenotransplantation (animal-to-human transplantation) involves implanting, infusing or transplanting living animal tissues, cells or organs into a human recipient. The aim is to alleviate or eliminate human health conditions that prevent the individual from living the 'good life'. Hence, xenotransplantation is constructed as a potential and needed solution to fixing 'abnormal' bodies. By crossing species barriers, however, this technology is not without its complexities and uncertainties. Importantly, xenotransplantation intimately intertwines animals and humans, which may challenge sacred boundaries such as animal/human, subject/object and us/them, while posing new questions about ontology.
To deal with such complexities and potential hybridities, official science attempts to stabilise constructed knowledges of animals. This primarily targets knowledges on animals of interest as human organ sources, specifically nonhuman primates and pigs. Ironically, this approach also involves complicating our understandings of the concordance and discordance between nonhuman primates, pigs and humans. Utilising Irwin and Michael's (2003) ethno-epistemic assemblages, I explore how official science selects an animal as an organ source for humans. By employing what I have called a comparative continuum, it is revealed how official science fashions animal identities on degrees of dissimilarities and similarities to humans, and how, through such negotiations, official science constructs its position of authority. This reveals how official science creates complex and sometimes contradictory truth-claims and stories about nonhuman primates and pigs.
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