Providing the first overview of Asia’s emerging biosciences landscape, this timely and important collection brings together ethnographic case studies on biotech endeavors such as genetically modified foods in China, clinical trials in India, blood collection in Singapore and China, and stem-cell research in Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan. While biotech policies and projects vary by country, the contributors identify a significant trend toward state entrepreneurialism in biotechnology, and they highlight the ways that political thinking and ethical reasoning are converging around the biosciences.
As ascendant nations in a region of postcolonial emergence, with an “uncanny surplus” in population and pandemics, Asian countries treat their populations as sources of opportunity and risk. Biotech enterprises are allied to efforts to overcome past humiliations and restore national identity and political ambition, and they are legitimized as solutions to national anxieties about food supplies, diseases, epidemics, and unknown biological crises in the future. Biotechnological responses to perceived risks stir deep feelings about shared fate, and they crystallize new ethical configurations, often re-inscribing traditional beliefs about ethnicity, nation, and race. As many of the essays in this collection illustrate, state involvement in biotech initiatives is driving the emergence of “biosovereignty,” an increasing pressure for state control over biological resources, commercial health products, corporate behavior, and genetic based-identities. Asian Biotech offers much-needed analysis of the interplay among biotechnologies, economic growth, biosecurity, and ethical practices in Asia.