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Last Minute-Tipp: Jake Metcalf on „Humanized Animals and the Logic of Close Enough“

7. September 2010

Habe mich leider recht spät wieder daran erinnert: Heute am frühen Abend spricht der Donna-Haraway Schüler Jacob ‚Jake‘ Metcalf über die Semantik des anthropomorphen humanisierten Tiers – und zwar geht es hier in der Tat NICHT mehr bloß um die anthropomorphe Darstellung, sondern um genetisch veränderte Tiere, an denen so menschliche genetische Eigenschaften geprüft werden sollen.
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EDIT: Jetzt auch mit Einstiegsbibliografie am Ende dieses Blogposts!
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Humanized Animals and the Logic of Close Enough: A Case Study in Constructing an Object of Ethical Inquiry, Jacob Metcalf, Ph.D., University of California, Santa Cruz
Tue, 7 September 2010, 5pm-6:30pm; Seminar room: 1090 Wien, Sensengasse 8 (ground floor)

This project examines the entangled ethics and epistemology of humanized mice as a case study in how to make bioethics more responsive to core themes of science and technology studies. ‘Humanized animals’ are laboratory model animals engineered to express human traits that cannot otherwise be studied in a human because of experimental or ethical limitations. By engineering mice to express human versions of genes, scientists are able to track how that trait operates within an organism and infer how that trait might operate in humans. Humanized mice are becoming increasingly important for modeling traits that are considered important to humans’ moral and ontological status, such as brain biology or speech capability. Bioethicists have typically reacted to such experiments with the concern that these practices will make the mice too close to the special moral and ontological status of the human, and thus threaten that fixed and pre-determined category of ‘the human.’ However, drawing on STS-inspired historical and sociological accounts of animal modeling, I argue that humanized mice are but one aspect of an experimental apparatus of animal modeling that has drawn humans and lab animals into a contingent and co-constituting relationship in which their moral and ontological statuses are always in flux. In other words, the scientific practices of humanized animals are actually about producing a relationship of close enough. So how ought bioethics incorporate STS methods in this case? If the scientific practice produces an ongoing re-negotiation of ontological and moral boundaries, should bioethics be primarily focussed on policing those boundaries? In contrast with most bioethics literature, I argue that bioethical inquiry should focus on the conditions and consequences of drawing humans and mice into these ongoing relationships, thus making the moral, epistemic, and ontological apparatus of animal modeling the object of ethical inquiry. I thus advocate for a hybrid STS-applied ethics approach that incorporates both STS’s recognition that science and human values constantly remake each other and applied ethics’ impulse to intervene within scientific practice. In the case of humanized animals, learning how to respond to these contingent relationships and track their consequences for both humans and animals is a far more fruitful route than trying to determine and protect a ‘correct’ boundary between humans and animals. I also suggest that such a shift would be useful in bioethics in general.

Jake Metcalf is a PostDoctoral Fellow in the Science & Justice Training Program, an interdisciplinary post-graduate program in science studies at UCSC run by Jenny Reardon and Karen Barad, and supported by many other colleagues at UCSC, such as Donna Haraway. Jake’s current work investigates the entanglements of ethics & epistemology in multispecies genomics and animal modeling drawing on feminist science studies, applied ethics in the life sciences and post-structuralist philosophy.

Recommended literature:
Barad, Karen, „Queer Causation and the Ethics of Mattering,” in Queering the Non/Human, edited by Noreen Giffney and Myra J. Hird. Ashgate Press (Queer Interventions Book Series), 2008.
Barad, Karen, Meeting the Universe Halfway: Quantum Physics and the Entanglement of Matter and Meaning, Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2007.
Franklin, Sarah, Dolly Mixtures: The Remaking of Genealogy, 2007.
Haraway, Donna Jeanne, The companion species manifesto: dogs, people, and significant otherness, 2003.
Haraway, Donna Jeanne, When species meet, 2008.
Latour, Bruno, Politics of Nature: How to Bring the Sciences Into Democracy, 2004.
Rader, Karen A., Of mice, medicine, and genetics : C.C. Little’s creation of the inbred laboratory mouse, 1909-1918, (PhD Thesis) 1995.
Rader, Karen A., Making mice : standardizing animals for American biomedical research, 1900-1955, 2004.
Reardon, Jenny, “The Human Genome Diversity Project: A Case Study in Coproduction.” Social Studies of Science 31[3]: 357-388, 2001.
Reardon, Jenny, “Decoding Race and Human Difference in A Genomic Age.” differences 15[3]: 38-65, 2004.
Reardon, Jenny, Race to the Finish: Identity and Governance in an Age of Genomics, 2005.
Reardon, Jenny, “Creating Participatory Subjects: Race, Science and Democracy in a Genomic Age.” in: Scott Frickel and Kelly Moore eds., The New Political Sociology of Science: Institutions, Networks, and Power (Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press): 351-377, 2006.
Robert, John & Francoise Baylis, Crossing species boundaries, 2003.

3 Kommentare leave one →
  1. 14. September 2010 8:59 am

    Wunderbar. Danke für den Hinweis. Das leite ich gleich mal unserem Tierethiker im Haus weiter.

  2. 14. September 2010 9:34 am

    Gerne – war ein wirklich spannender Vortrag und es ärgert mich, dass ich nicht zur Tagung kommen kann, würde die Gedanken gerne in anderen Disziplinen fortsetzen (gibt es Hoffnung auf einen Livestream oder ein Aufzeichnung? -> Hier wäre eine Anleitung fürs Aufzeichnen: )

  3. 29. Dezember 2012 1:30 pm

    By evolution, humans are humanized animals. If you consider humanization of animals to be unethical, you are implying that the existence of humans is unethical. Are you advocating that all humans shold be killed for ethical reasons? If not, then stop claiming that humanization of animals is unethical! See Pure science Wiki.

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