Accepted Paper:

The biopolitics of innovation: remaking visions, practices and policies in stem cell therapy  


Christian Haddad (University of Vienna)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the politics of innovation stem cell therapy as an emerging field of advanced biomedicine. The concept of “biopolitics of innovation” helps to analyze the struggles over desirable modes of innovation, and to critically examine the relationships between innovation and politics.

Paper long abstract:

The politics of biomedical innovation is characterized by tensions to aggressively promote innovation on the one hand, and to protect the public from undesirable results of misguided innovation on the other. Stem cell therapy is an intriguing field to study how these tensions pan out in practice and how the relationships between innovation and politics are being (re-)articulated and gradually remade.

The paper compares two pioneering companies that have pursued strikingly different visions of stem cell therapy innovation in the US. Suggesting "biopolitics of innovation" as a sensitizing concept, the paper analyzes the specific articulations of innovation and regulation at work in these visions, and explores how these visions compete for hegemony against the backdrop of broader epistemic, economic and normative orders.

My paper addresses three concerns raised by the panel: First, it problematizes the tensions between attempts to prescribe models of innovation through institutional frameworks and policies on the one hand, and the multiplicity of actual practices of innovation on the other.

Second, it explores the sociotechnical struggles and negotiations over the "proper" relationships between politics and innovation. The notion of "biopolitics of innovation" helps to conceptualize the political character of the contingent relationships between innovation and politics.

Finally, it examines innovation in relation to discourses and imaginaries of desirable futures. Special attention is paid to the ways in which competing sociotechnical visions seek to articulate and inscribe their particular notions of value, health, and social order into broader discourses, imaginaries and policies of innovation.

Panel T071
Innovation: Discourses, politics, societies, and blind spots