“Editor’s Introduction,” Symposium on Paul Rabinow’s “Prosperity, Amelioration, Flourishing: From a Logic of Practical Judgment to Reconstruction: An Account of His Work with SynBERC”


This is the Editor's Introduction to a special written symposium on Paul Rabinow's "Prosperity, Amelioration, Flourishing: From a Logic of Practical Judgment to Reconstruction" an account of the "anthropologist of reason'[s]" professional involvement with SynBERC, a critical institution in the field of synthetic biology, which latter, as Rabinow explains, "aims at nothing less than the (eventual) regulation of living organisms in a precise and standardized fashion according to instrumental norms." Contributors to the symposium are Rabinow himself, Richard Mullender, Ruthann Robson, Ruth Miller, Jose Gabilondo, Pamela Bridgewater, Michael Moreland, David Caudill, and Gary Edmond and David Mercer. The essays collected range from work in the queer theoretical, critical race, and feminist traditions to that which sources itself in theological ethics, and engage disciplinary expertise in law, anthropology, ethics, narrative theory, and socology of scientific knowledge/science and technology studies.

The symposium concludes with a response by Rabinow and his colleagues in the Human Practices Thrust of SynBERC, Gaymon Bennett and Anthony Stavrianakis, to the contributors to the Symposium, in particular to Mullender's application of their method to analyze British negligence law and to the critiques offered by Caudill and by Edmond and Mercer. That response also offers "at least in part, . . . an updating, a report, a reformulation" on/of the opening essay and on their collaboration in SynBERC. And thus it laments "the steadfast lack of a broad curiosity on the part of the engineers, molecular biologists, chemists (and their students)," and concludes "that in important yet ultimately constructive ways, the results of our first set of experiments in Human Practices at SynBERC have proven to be unsuccessful," but not, when subjected to critical reflection, which reveals that "indifference on the part of our hoped-for collaborators was a key to understanding the persistent difficulties and blockages we encountered," to be a failure.



Date of this Version

April 2010

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