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From the Incinerator to the Bank: A Feminist Qualitative Study of Private Cord Blood Banking in Canada

From the Incinerator to the Bank: A Feminist Qualitative Study of Private Cord Blood Banking in Canada

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Title: From the Incinerator to the Bank: A Feminist Qualitative Study of Private Cord Blood Banking in Canada
Author: Haw, Jin-Young Jennie
Abstract: This is a feminist, qualitative study of private umbilical cord blood banking in Canada. Drawing on in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 12 women who banked cord blood, 6 key informants from 4 different private cord blood banks, and 3 healthcare professionals, I consider what private cord blood banking can tell us about contemporary biopolitics, the production of biovalue in corporeal materials, the promise of “biological insurance,” and the social actor of neoliberalism.
My research makes several key contributions to sociological literature on stem cell science, health and contemporary biopolitics. First, I make a feminist, empirical contribution to social science scholarship on private cord blood banking specifically. Second, I expand on the biovalue literature by demonstrating the social production of biovalue in a specific cord blood unit. I show that the production of biovalue in cord blood units is a social process that involves tensions and negotiations between women, private banks and clinicians across different expert discourses and profane knowledges.
Third, I critically examine the metaphor of private cord blood banking as “biological insurance.” Private cord blood banks emphasize the future, speculative promises of regenerative stem cell therapies and market their services as a form of insurance. Contrary to this position, I show how in some cases cord blood fails to provide the protection it promises. Fourth, this study challenges contemporary literature on the active subject in health. I argue that women’s experiences of cord blood banking show that the conventional interpretation of the active subject as a rational, calculating subject that engages in contemporary health strategies in a hopeful manner requires revision. I show that women act as precautionary actors who bank in a context of uncertainty and fear.
By providing an in-depth, empirical examination of women’s experiences of private cord blood banking, I offer a feminist, critical account of a contemporary biopolitical strategy in the Global North: health optimization through private tissue storage. I challenge biopolitics scholarship that presents an over-generalized, acritical account of contemporary biopolitics and argue for greater analytic and empirical attention to the everyday experiences of people who engage in health optimizing practices.
Subject: Sociology
Keywords: Cord blood banking
Science and technology studies
Sociology of health
Feminist approaches
Biological insurance
Precautionary actor
Type: Electronic Thesis or Dissertation
Rights: Author owns copyright, except where explicitly noted. Please contact the author directly with licensing requests.
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10315/29885
Supervisor: Weir, Lorna
Degree: PhD - Doctor of Philosophy
Program: Sociology
Exam date: 2014-09-26
Publish on: 2015-08-28

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