Cord Blood Socialities: Between Biological Citizenship and Gift Economy

Research output: Book/ReportBook


In the last couple of years, the newborns' umbilical cord blood has become increasingly accepted as a rich source of different types of stem cells. Similarly to stem cells from bone marrow, they have primarily been used for the treatment of leukaemia, and a number of serious genetic diseases. At the same time, scientists have been researching the potential of these cord blood stem cells in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering. The result has been a novel constellation of biotechnologies, knowledge production, institutions, categories of social actors and social practices which, in turn, made a lot of things shift: Healthcare systems, the hopes or fears of expectant parents, the knowledge monopoly of medical professionals and medical institutions and, ultimately, how different social actors imagine and construct responsibility, health provisioning and care. Building upon the established concepts of biosociality, biological citizenship, gift economy and transnationalisation, the author develops the idea of a "bio-cosmopolitanism": By merging a biomedical knowledge-based mode of distinction with an embodied practice, social actors embrace simultaneously the "gift to oneself", the altruism towards anonymous patients, and the "donation" of potential scientific knowledge. As the author argues, they ultimately integrate a sense of biological global belonging into their everyday practices. The study is based on extensive ethnographic field research in Germany and the United Kingdom, where the author conducted participant observation and numerous interviews in public as well as in private cord blood banks and hospitals. The result is a highly readable but, at the same time, very informative and thought-provoking book. It combines social theory with detailed description of the everyday routines and perceptions of all those who are involved in cord blood banking, lightened up by colourful "vignettes" with the author's very personal insights.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationHamburg
PublisherVerlag Dr Kovac
ISBN (Print)9783830073932
Publication statusPublished - 2013


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