May 8 – May 10, 2023
Panel at the 21th Annual STS Conference Graz 2023 „Critical Issues in Science, Technology and Society Studies“
Organizer: Isabel Briz Hernandez, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.
Much has been said about hope and science. Since the emergence of biotechnology and its promises of a not-distant-future in which the advances at the bench will quickly travel to the care at the bedside, scholars in science studies have warned about the hype around biotech and the deceiving illusion that it creates in patients at their most vulnerable moment, at the edge of life (Good 2007; Rose and Novas 2005). It has been widely portrayed how hope is capitalized by biotech companies and nation-states, turning the expectations of patients and their families into an economic profit (Novas 2006; Sunder Rajan 2005, 2006, 2010; Waldby 2000). Others have urged us to look at how the idea of potentiality has impregnated life science and biomedicine in the last decades (Taussig, Hoeyer, and Helmreich 2013). Yet, an emerging scholarship is also pointing to how this hype is “recalibrated” on the ground (Gardner, Samuel, Williams 2015) and how high and low expectations are intertwined (Pickersgill 2011, Fitzgerald 2014, Swallow et al. 2020, Day et al. 2021)
This panel draws on the “Sociology of Low Expectations” (Gardner, Samuel, Williams 2015) and invites papers that reflect on how doubt and uncertainty are present in promissory technologies in the life science industry such as gene and cell therapy, stem cell, immunotherapy or personalized medicine in general. In addition to the performance of the “promissory rhetorics” (Borup et al., 2006; Brown, 2015), this panel seeks to analyze ethnographic moments in which hype is contested, and yet those practices are constitutive of technoscience.