This session brought together authors in the Sex, Genes, and Race: The New Biopolitics book being compiled and edited by Michele Goodwin, and other interested Tarrytown Meeting attendees, to engage in a dialogue about biotechnology beyond the traditional terrains of abstract science to the provocative debates of: renting wombs from poor women in India, gene patents, race-based and targeted pharmaceuticals, and synthetic biology. The goal of the book is to offer a more nuanced contemporary account of the cultural, political, and legal issues associated with new technologies. Importantly, this book takes a serious look at the ways in which the "new biopolitics" shift the discourses on race, genes, and sex.
The diverse group of authors all agree on one point: we are in an era of new biotechnological politics. Biotechnology is no longer divorced, or for that matter, separated from the political sphere. Instead, politicians and states harness and promote new biotechnologies to achieve state goals. Sometimes these efforts and their reach and impacts are innocuous and even render a public good. At other times, politics drive new biotechnologies for purposes of defense and state interference with individual rights.
The book project and this session examined the ways in which biotechnologies outpace the law, leading at times to perverse results. The book illumes the nation’s passion with science and the hope for medical cures, while teasing out the irony of most people’s ignorance about science. The book does not take one political stand, but rather involves the voices of many to engage in lively philosophical, sociological, and legal debate on new technologies. The book is unique in that it strives for an international conversation on biopolitics, one that takes into account how developing countries are often forced to suffer the results of technological transfer and enterprise from industrialized Western nations.