- Dolly Mixtures: The Remaking of Genealogy
After the advent of Dolly the sheep in 1997,many books were published by the participants in or the observers of cloning which gave accessible scientific descriptions of the process, or engaged the innumerable discussions of the ethics of human cloning. Ten years on comes an important book unlike any of these previous scientific or popular accounts of Dolly and mammalian cloning by somatic nuclear transfer. Dolly Mixtures poses many questions that no one else has thought to ask, fundamentally reframing the event of Dolly’s life. Instead of a more detailed understanding of cloning than he or she possessed before, a reader will come away with an entirely different comprehension of what kind of subject cloning is in the first place. Dolly, Sarah Franklin argues, is simultaneously a remarkable animal and a case that represents a much larger phenomenon, and no better example around which to develop social scientific and historical scholarship of biotechnology.
In five chapters—“Sex,” “Capital,” “Nation,” “Colony,” and “Death”— come a series of historical and anthropological insights into the social, economic, and scientific orders that made Dolly possible. Beginning with an analysis of the significance of Dolly’s creation in terms of reproductive science, Franklin writes that what is significant about sex after Dolly is not that existing definitions of it have been completely transformed, but rather that they have been re-mixed. The oft-posed question of whether Dolly is really new (another version of whether genetic engineering is really new when humans have been engaged in agriculture for eons) is simply answered “yes and no”; what is more interesting, argues Franklin, is how exactly reproduction is disassembled into elements which are then recombined and “recapacitated” for their intentional redeployment in the production of therapeutics for humans. Many elements of reproduction and its control are longstanding, and their histories can illuminate the significance of their recombination. This is the basic methodological guide to a [End Page 826] book that constantly follows a theme of orientation: the historical formations that enable and prefigure Dolly’s creation are examined in light of understanding what structures the particular form of this biotechnology, and what these specifics of its making point toward.
The rest of the book wanders ever farther afield, tracing out lines of descent of different elements that are recombined in Dolly. In “Capital,” a detailed consideration of the etymology and history of “stock” allows Franklin to pursue the question of how different living technologies in animal or cellular form come to be valued and exchanged. She connects the fascinating history of the development of breeding techniques and diverse breeds of sheep in the British Isles to the development of stem-cell lines in contemporary Britain, arguing that both are part of understanding the broader questions provoked by Dolly’s existence about life forms as economic entities. The chapter titled “Nation” extends this history of controlled reproduction of sheep in the history of the British nation, the economic status of sheep and their germ-plasm, and their role in the British and world economy. “Colony” examines the history of sheep and colonization in Australia and provides a provocative argument for the links between Anglo-Australian agricultural science and human reproductive science around in-vitro fertilization in the 1980s. One hopes that this “descriptive scaffold” will shortly be filled out by Franklin or others following her lead. The final chapter, “Death,” is an in-depth analysis of the foot-and-mouth disease outbreaks in Britain in 2001–02, ruminating on new forms of morbidity that inevitably accompany the making of new life forms.
Historians of technology will find this work provocative in that it provides many insights into the history and potential historiography of living technologies, mapping out a rich territory connecting the history of agriculture and agricultural technologies and the history of medicine, reproductive technologies, and biotechnology. In addition, it provides a set of novel connections between technologies of reproduction and the processes of domestication of animals, pastoralization, and colonization. Whether or...