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Biology Unmoored

Melanesian Reflections on Life and Biotechnology

Sandra Bamford

Publication Year: 2007

Biology Unmoored is an engaging examination of what it means to live in a world that is not structured in terms of biological thinking. Drawing upon three years of ethnographic research in the highlands of Papua New Guinea, Sandra Bamford describes a world in which physiological reproduction is not perceived to ground human kinship or human beings' relationship to the organic world. Bamford also exposes the ways in which Western ideas about relatedness do depend on a notion of physiological reproduction. Her innovative analysis includes a discussion of the advent of assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), the mapping of the human genome, cloning, the commodification of biodiversity, and the manufacture and sale of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Published by: University of California Press


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pp. 1-1

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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pp. vii-vii

List of Illustrations

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pp. ix-ix

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pp. xi-xiv

My doctoral research was made possible by fellowships from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, as well as a research grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. I am deeply grateful to both of these organizations for their financial support of my fieldwork in Papua New Guinea. I would also like to thank the Graduate ...

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Introduction: Conceptual Frameworks

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pp. 1-19

At eleven o’clock in the morning, Landrum Brewer Shettles stood in the foyer of this esteemed institution waiting for someone to deliver a package. A recipient of the prestigious Markle Scholarship, Shettles was an established, if somewhat eccentric, New York fertility doctor known for publicizing a number of low-tech methods that he claimed couples could use to ...

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1. Cultural Landscapes

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pp. 20-45

August 26, 2001, was a sunny and warm day in southern France. Shortly after noon, a group of men and women began to convene on a small plot of land near the rural town of Auch, a region well known for its culinary delights and picturesque beauty. A distinctly festive atmosphere prevailed. Many arrived on the scene with picnic baskets brimming with Roquefort ...

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2. Insubstantial Identities

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pp. 46-79

In the summer of 2002, newspapers throughout Europe and North America featured the story of a young white woman—known only as Mrs. A— who had given birth to black twins in the United Kingdom. Mrs. A and her husband had been undergoing a treatment for infertility known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection at the Assisted Conception Unit of Leeds General ...

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3. Embodiments of Detachment

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pp. 80-116

In October 1986, the San Diego District Attorney’s Office issued a courtorder for Pamela Rae Stewart to appear before the bench. Stewart, atwenty-seven-year-old mother of three, was charged with criminal neglectfor contributing to the death of her newborn son by failing to follow herThe case against Pamela Rae Stewart is believed to have been the first in...

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4. (Im)Mortal Undertakings

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pp. 117-149

On February 23, 1997, the world woke up to a technological innovation that “shook the foundations of Western biology and philosophy” (Silver 1997: 91). On that day, Ian Wilmut and his colleagues (1997) at Roslin Institute in Scotland announced the existence of Dolly—a six-month-old lamb who had been cloned from a single cell taken from the mammary ...

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5. Conceiving Global Identities

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pp. 150-168

“Racing the clock, two leaders in genetics and evolution are calling for an urgent effort to collect DNA from rapidly disappearing indigenous people” (Roberts 1991: 1614; italics added). These words are the first byline in an article by Leslie Roberts, entitled “A Genetic Survey of Vanishing People,” which highlights the purported significance of the Human Genome Diversity ...

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Conclusion: Conceptual Displacements

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pp. 169-177

Bipahu, Patura, Wilimal, and I are seated around the slowly ebbing fire that burns in my haus kuk (kitchen). The evening is cool. We sip tea to ward off the evening chill and contemplate an issue that has been troubling Wilimal for the past few weeks. Wilimal is in the process of planning a feast that he intends to present to his in-laws in three days’ time. The intended recipients ...


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pp. 179-189


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pp. 191-218


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pp. 219-230

Production Notes

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pp. 231-231

E-ISBN-13: 9780520939479
Print-ISBN-13: 9780520247123

Page Count: 245
Publication Year: 2007

OCLC Number: 290539838
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Biology Unmoored

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Hamtai (Papua New Guinean people) -- Ethnobiology.
  • Hamtai (Papua New Guinean people) -- Agriculture.
  • Hamtai (Papua New Guinean people) -- Psychology.
  • Human body -- Social aspects -- Papua New Guinea -- Gulf Province.
  • Indigenous peoples -- Ecology -- Papua New Guinea -- Gulf Province.
  • Ethnobiology -- Papua New Guinea -- Gulf Province.
  • Biotechnology.
  • Genetic engineering.
  • Gulf Province (Papua New Guinea) -- Social life and customs.
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