1 Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Københavns Universitet2 Department of Social Science, Health & Medicine, King’s College London3 Institut for Antropologi, Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Københavns Universitet4 Institut for Antropologi, Department of Anthropology, Faculty of Social Sciences, Københavns Universitet
Ethnographic sensibility at the interface of STS, policy studies and the social studies of medicine
Several years ago, both authors engaged in research into bioscience and biomedical regulation in Asian countries. One of us (BP) explored why the regulatory and discursive embedding of human embryonic stem cell in Israel was much more permissive than elsewhere. The other author (AW) sought to understand the conditions under which traditional herbal medicine came to be mobilised in Vietnam’s national health delivery system to an extent that it is now considered one of the most integrated in the world. In both cases, we found that to understand science policies and regulatory frameworks we needed to go beyond official documents and expert interviews, and instead move the meanings of social conventions, political, legal, and social histories, as well as other informal practices, into the focus of our studies. Exploring these conditions of possibility for the regulatory configurations in our case studies meant bringing what we call ‘ethnographic sensibility’ to our research. This paper discusses the implications of this approach, which often entails rendering visible the contradictions and ‘disorders’ in what seems coherent and orderly.
Biosocieties, 2013, Vol 8, Issue 3, p. 336-359
Faculty of Social Sciences; policy research; ethnographic sensibility; expert/elite interviews; STS; stem cell research; herbal medicine