Article ID: CBB401018956

From “Experiments of Concern” to “Groups of Concern”: Constructing and Containing Citizens in Synthetic Biology (2020)


Synthetic biology represents a recent and explicit attempt to make biology easier to engineer, and through this to open up the design space of genetic engineering to a wider range of practitioners (including, but not limited to, engineers). Proponents of this approach emphasize the standardization of practices as key to successful biological engineering; yet, meaningful transatlantic differences are emerging with respect to the constitution of key concerns and the governance of synthetic biology in the United States (US) and the United Kingdom (UK). In this article, I tease out how national approaches to governing synthetic biology are being framed against different salient past experiences with recombinant DNA technology. In the US, the governance of synthetic biology is consistently articulated in relation to the early days of recombinant DNA technology and the self-governance mechanisms pioneered in response to Asilomar. In the UK, more recent experiences with genetically modified crops provide the overarching imaginary against which governance initiatives are being proposed. I suggest that these differing sociotechnical imaginaries have implications for how new “groups of concern” are being defined in relation to synthetic biology and how measures to contain perceived risks are being pursued in the US and Britain.

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Article J. Benjamin Hurlbut; Sheila Jasanoff; Krishanu Saha (2020) Constitutionalism at the Nexus of Life and Law. Science, Technology, and Human Values (pp. 979-1000). unapi

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Authors & Contributors
Ingrid Metzler
Jasanoff, Sheila
Tattersdill, Will
Armocida, Emanuele
Alexandra Palmer
Kilgore, Christopher D.
Science, Technology, and Human Values
Studies in History and Philosophy of Science
Configurations: A Journal of Literature, Science, and Technology
Medicina Historica
The Journal of Interdisciplinary History
Mefisto: Rivista di medicina, filosofia, storia
University of Chicago Press
Oxford University Press
Lexington Books
Franco Angeli
Science and law
Synthetic biology; bioengineering
Cross-national comparison
Human-animal relationships
Science and ethics
Atwood, Margaret
Time Periods
21st century
20th century, late
20th century
19th century
United Kingdom
United States
Select Agent Program

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