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Accepted Paper:

Gender, experimentation and bioethics: medical controversies in India  
Salla Sariola (University of Helsinki) Deapica Ravindran (Center for Studies in Ethics and Rights, Mumbai )

Paper short abstract:

Framed in New Materialism, this paper analysis the intra-play of two HPV related medical controversies; research subjects; bodies; HPV viruses, vaccine and cervical cancer; and research regulation in India.

Paper long abstract:

This paper shows how scientific experimentation in India is gendered, by focusing on two medical studies on women: a recent HPV vaccine project and an observational study of cervical cancer from the 1970-80s.

Based on interviews with Indian government and public health officials and women's rights activists; archival research and reviews of the scientific papers published from the studies; and public reports of ethical malpractice, the paper reconstructs the two studies and analyses the controversies that followed. By analysing experiences of researchers, civil society members and regulators we show how local ideas of women as less-valuable members of society led them to be subjects of medical research and to an ethical triage whereby less rigorous research practices were deemed necessary.

Both studies were subject to critical public debate regarding the treatment of their study participants where the feminist activists raised concerns regarding patriarchal exploitation of women in India's reproductive health science in general, and the lack of sufficient measures to protect human subjects taking part in clinical trials in particular. The controversies shaped the future of Indian research culture when the public discussions led to the intensification of bioethical governance of human experimentation in 2013.

Drawing on framework of New Materialist that rethinks dualisms between nature and culture, matter and mind, this paper puts forward an analysis of the intra-play of subjects; bodies; HPV viruses, vaccine and cancer; and research regulation in these controversies, and develops an analysis of the relationships of feminist activism, gender, technoscience, and governance in India.

Panel T100
Feminist Technoscience Studies in Unexpected Places: (Intra)Activism and Social Justice
  Session 1 Friday 2 September, 2016, -