Accepted Paper:

An examination of the development of the HPV vaccine  


Shaun Geer (UC Davis)

Paper short abstract:

This paper looks at the development of the HPV vaccine, and particularly the interaction between corporate, state, and academic actors in developing an epistemic thing and commodifying it.

Paper long abstract:

I draw upon Rheinberger's(1997) work on epistemologies as the basic unit at which science is done, and apply this to all of the different actors which interacted with the HPV vaccine, looking at the discourse and practice around epistemic things which drives action around corporate, state, and academic actors. My paper focuses on the following epistemic things: the components of what will eventually be the HPV vaccine, the packaged, completed form of this vaccine, and the medicalized female body. Different groups interact around and through these objects in way similar to that described by Star et. al. (1989) discussion of boundary objects. Generally, the literature treats the actor examining a new border object as being accommodating; that is, by examining what the other group wants and needs from the actor and then embodying that in such a way in that both groups benefit and thus want to maintain both the relationship to the object itself and other actors through the border object. However, my analysis adds an examination of what asymmetrical power does to interactions through boundary objects. Finally, I look at how different discourses and practices affect the alignment of actors around epistemic things, and how the changing of the focus on the carcinogenic aspects of the HPV virus effectively changed the relationship between the female body and state actors.

Panel T017
STS for pharmaceuticals and public health policy