Charis Thompson

Charis Thompson is Associate Professor of Rhetoric and Women's Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author of Making Parents: The Ontological Choreography of Reproductive Technologies (MIT Press)

  • Good Science

    Good Science

    The Ethical Choreography of Stem Cell Research

    Charis Thompson

    An examination of a decade and a half of political controversy, ethical debate, and scientific progress in stem cell research.

    After a decade and a half, human pluripotent stem cell research has been normalized. There may be no consensus on the status of the embryo—only a tacit agreement to disagree—but the debate now takes place in a context in which human stem cell research and related technologies already exist. In this book, Charis Thompson investigates the evolution of the controversy over human pluripotent stem cell research in the United States and proposes a new ethical approach for “good science.” Thompson traces political, ethical, and scientific developments that came together in what she characterizes as a “procurial” framing of innovation, based on concern with procurement of pluripotent cells and cell lines, a pro-cures mandate, and a proliferation of bio-curatorial practices.

    Thompson describes what she calls the “ethical choreography” that allowed research to go on as the controversy continued. The intense ethical attention led to some important discoveries as scientists attempted to “invent around” ethical roadblocks. Some ethical concerns were highly legible; but others were hard to raise in the dominant procurial framing that allowed government funding for the practice of stem cell research to proceed despite controversy. Thompson broadens the debate to include such related topics as animal and human research subjecthood and altruism. Looking at fifteen years of stem cell debate and discoveries, Thompson argues that good science and good ethics are mutually reinforcing, rather than antithetical, in contemporary biomedicine.

    • Hardcover $19.75 £14.99
  • Making Parents

    Making Parents

    The Ontological Choreography of Reproductive Technologies

    Charis Thompson

    Assisted reproductive technology (ART) makes babies and parents at once. Drawing on science and technology studies, feminist theory, and historical and ethnographic analyses of ART clinics, Charis Thompson explores the intertwining of biological reproduction with the personal, political, and technological meanings of reproduction. She analyzes the "ontological choreography" at ART clinics—the dynamics by which technical, scientific, kinship, gender, emotional, legal, political, financial, and other matters are coordinated—using ethnographic data to address questions usually treated in the abstract. Reproductive technologies, says Thompson, are part of the increasing tendency to turn social problems into biomedical questions and can be used as a lens through which to see the resulting changes in the relations between science and society.

    After giving an account of the book's disciplinary roots in science and technology studies and in feminist scholarship on reproduction, Thompson comes to the ethnographic heart of her study. She develops her concept of ontological choreography by examining ART's normalization of "miraculous" technology (including the etiquette of technological sex); gender identity in the assigned roles of mother and father and the conservative nature of gender relations in the clinic; the naturalization of technologically assisted kinship and procreative intent; and patients' pursuit of agency through objectification and technology. Finally, Thompson explores the economies of reproductive technologies, concluding with a speculative and polemical look at the "biomedical mode of reproduction" as a predictor of future relations between science and society.

    • Hardcover $40.00
    • Paperback $32.00 £25.00

Contributor

  • Cryopolitics

    Cryopolitics

    Frozen Life in a Melting World

    Joanna Radin and Emma Kowal

    The social, political, and cultural consequences of attempts to cheat death by freezing life.

    As the planet warms and the polar ice caps melt, naturally occurring cold is a resource of growing scarcity. At the same time, energy-intensive cooling technologies are widely used as a means of preservation. Technologies of cryopreservation support global food chains, seed and blood banks, reproductive medicine, and even the preservation of cores of glacial ice used to study climate change. In many cases, these practices of freezing life are an attempt to cheat death. Cryopreservation has contributed to the transformation of markets, regimes of governance and ethics, and the very relationship between life and death. In Cryopolitics, experts from anthropology, history of science, environmental humanities, and indigenous studies make clear the political and cultural consequences of extending life and deferring death by technoscientific means.

    The contributors examine how and why low temperatures have been harnessed to defer individual death through freezing whole human bodies; to defer nonhuman species death by freezing tissue from endangered animals; to defer racial death by preserving biospecimens from indigenous people; and to defer large-scale human death through pandemic preparedness. The cryopolitical lens, emphasizing the roles of temperature and time, provokes new and important questions about living and dying in the twenty-first century.

    Contributors Warwick Anderson, Michael Bravo, Jonny Bunning, Matthew Chrulew, Soraya de Chadarevian, Alexander Friedrich, Klaus Hoeyer, Frédéric Keck, Eben Kirksey, Emma Kowal, Joanna Radin, Deborah Bird Rose, Kim TallBear, Charis Thompson, David Turnbull, Thom van Dooren, Rebecca J. H. Woods

    • Hardcover $40.00 £30.00