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Boundary making and 'good' stem cell research (SCR) in mainland China: including bioethics, excluding debate

journal contribution
posted on 2023-06-07, 16:28 authored by Margaret Sleeboom-FaulknerMargaret Sleeboom-Faulkner
This study probes into what public Chinese stem cell scientists involve in defining what is 'good research practice'. Thomas Gieryn in 1983 argued that scientists draw up boundaries between the realm of 'real science' and that of 'pseudoscience' in order to claim and defend their own territory. The aim was to protect the autonomy of scientific research and to elicit financial support and political backup (Gieryn, American Sociological Review, 48(6), 781-795, 1983). This article builds on, redefines and extends Gieryn's concept of 'boundary-work' to apply to and include boundaries between ethical and non-ethical science, while emphasising the global scope of boundary work. It shows how scientists use both 'science' and 'bioethics' boundaries to demarcate their own territory and to exclude certain publics from debate in the field. By elaborating Gieryn's concept of boundary work in the new and different context of bioethical science regulation, the article shows how Chinese stem cell scientists, by using both kinds of boundaries 'between science and pseudoscience and between ethical and non-ethical science' at the same time welcome and abhor bioethical research regulation. This article also indicates the need to understand this extended form of boundary making in terms of global science collaboration and competition. It shows how the self-awareness of scientists as global actors in stem cell science has led to a moral economy of science and ethics involving global boundaries rather than local conditions. Such boundary making does not just function to strengthen group identity and to elicit political support; it is also mobilised to direct and, in many cases, to ward off discussion with bioethicists and the public.


Publication status

  • Published


East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal




Duke University Press





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Department affiliated with

  • Anthropology Publications

Full text available

  • No

Peer reviewed?

  • Yes

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