Current Institutional Affiliation
Assistant Professor, Anthropology, Yonsei University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2010
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of California / Davis
Revitalizing Promises: How the Post-Scandal Stem Cell Research Becomes “Good Science” For Korea

Stem cell research, although it is ethically controversial and its future outcome is uncertain, is pursued as a national enterprise in many countries. It requires significant efforts of stem cell scientists to persuade the public of the promises of stem cell research attempting to win over its uncertainty and controversial aspects. This project explores how stem cell research has restored public support in Korea after a scandalous disclosure of the ethical and economic uncertainties that led to a credibility collapse of stem cell research in Korea. In their repair effort, the post-scandal scientists try to present stem cell research as good science, which is promising and credible. Paying attention to the conception of credibility and promises in Korea after the scandal, I will investigate the interface between scientists and the public that shapes the current scientific practices and future prospects of stem cell research. Moreover, I suggest that the post-scandal repair effort entail certain ideas of the public, nation and society with diverse interests as interpreted and imagined by the scientists. This project examines how stem cell research, through the repair efforts, re-emerges not merely as a field of scientific research, but also as a national enterprise expected to secure the return to the public on investment. To pursue these inquiries, I will conduct ethnographic fieldwork in stem cell labs in Korea and discourse analysis following how stem cell research is practiced in the labs and presented to the public. Through this research, I propose that the scientists not only produce scientific knowledge, but also generate a vision of future that relates stem cells to national prosperity and builds a governing structure through which scientists secure the pathway toward the anticipated stem cell future.