‘Football fields of skin’: a masculinist dream?
So far, I have explored the ways in which tissues and cells have become detached from bodies, that is, how they have been collected from cadavers and the living, and circulated or distributed as exchange objects between the clinic, mortuary, laboratory and manufacturing company. In the new tissue economies, tissues and cells potentially acquire new forms of value, becoming disconnected from the bodies of ‘donors’, relocated in time and space, disembodied, suspended, reanimated and reimplanted into different bodies (or the same body at a different time) (Cooper 2006b). When seen as a process of commodification, this raised ethical concerns about how such practices undermine notions of personhood and what it means to be human. These
concerns were, in turn, important in shaping international regulatory policy and the emergence of new European legislation to control these economies and facilitate the growth of ‘regenerative medicine’ and a market for these innovative biotechnologies. The United Kingdom has been especially keen to promote innovation in this area, and the political and institutional context described above highlights how new regulatory objects were created; how embryos and fetuses are regulated differently; the ways in which the potential for life, and ‘death’, are conceptualized in regulatory terms; and how (bio)ethics and regulation intersect. In Chapter 2, it was suggested that ‘regenerative medicine’ is seen as representing a paradigm shift, a new therapeutic approach to promote organ and tissue repair and regeneration, and implies a new way of thinking about the body. In this chapter, I want to explore in more depth what kinds of body are enrolled in regenerative medicine, how bodies are configured by these technologies, and what kinds of body are (potentially) produced. I want to develop a feminist analysis of how gender and these new tissue and cell technologies are connected. By drawing on feminist theory and science and technology studies, the ways in which gender and technology are mutually shaping and constitutive come into view. This leads to a number of important questions: first, what kinds of body are enrolled in regenerative medicine as sources of ‘raw materials’ or, in industry parlance, ‘starting materials’ – the tissues, cells or body parts that provide the biological materials for processing? Second, how are technical systems and practices for processing, manipulating, storing and production of therapeutic product/therapy gendered? Third, how are users of the technologies configured/gendered, and how may patterns of access, distribution and availability of treatments be understood? Fourth, what is the transformative potential of these technologies – how do they transform or re-inscribe specific social relations?