: CALL FOR PAPERS - Biobanks. The entanglement of forms of participation, identities and biovalues in emerging biobanking configurations

Biobanks are central institutions in the infrastructure of contemporary biomedicine. They collect, test, store and provide a variety of different tissues, samples and bio-information for research, therapy and drug development. Biobanks range from small scale tissue collections organized by hospitals or universities, to commercial bio-samples and bio-information databases to, finally, large population-based projects connecting public research institutions with pharmaceutical companies and biotech firms. In recent years, new types of biobanks were established, founded and/or supported by patient groups and aimed at the development of new knowledge, diagnostic technologies and therapies for specific diseases (Novas 2006; Gottweis and Laus 2011). The increasing partnerships between public sector institutions, commercial enterprises and citizens’ involvement, are moving biobanks to hybrid configurations (Gottweis and Petersen 2008). Clear-cut boundaries between public sector institutions performing redistribution of tissues for medical needs and profit-seeking private companies operating in the market are more and more blurred (Hauskeller and Beltrame 2016a).

An essential feature of biobanking is that it involves citizens’ participation in several forms: as voluntary donors of tissues, as passive or unaware providers of samples and information, as recruited (sometimes paid) participants and as actively engaged research subjects. The issue of participation is crucial in social sciences reflections on biobanking. A large legal and bioethics literature has addressed issues of privacy, consent, confidentiality and ownership in biobanking. Other studies have focused on question of legitimacy, trust, access and citizen rights in biobanks’ governance.

This special issue of Tecnoscienza. The Italian Journal of Science & Technology Studies will be directed to other strands of STS studies of biobanking.

Firstly, using notions such as ‘biosociality’ (Rabinow 1996; Gibbon and Novas 2008), ‘somatic individuality’ (Novas and Rose 2000; Rose 2001) and ‘biological citizenship’ (Rose and Novas 2005), STS scholars have explored how individuals constitute and develop collective identities in their interaction with biomedicine. Individuals’ choices about whether to participate and how in biobanking not only affect the ways in which different kinds of biobanks are set up and function, but shape also subjectivities and collective identities. This special issue aims therefore at an in-depth investigation of the intertwinement of biobanking participation and identity construction.

Secondly, building on the literature on bioeconomy (Waldby and Mitchell 2006; Sunder Rajan 2006) STS scholars have explored the political economy of biobanking. Biobanks have been recognized as a crucial site in the bioeconomy because they collect, organize and reformulate tissues, cells and bio-information in order to realize value through commodification (Mitchell and Waldby 2010). Biobanks are sites of ‘biovalue’ production (Waldby 2002), that entangle different economic regimes and modes of valuation (Fannin 2011; Hauskeller and Beltrame 2016b).

By combining these two foci, we look for contributions that can decipher the entanglement between citizens’ participation and the creation of biovalues. With this term we intend to address the interconnection between different processes of valuation, including ethical, social and identitary values in addition to economic ones. Contributions should aim to explore the intersection of participation, biobank configurations, identities and biovalues produced. We are interested especially, but not exclusively, in contribution that address the following questions:

•        How do different forms of involvements of patients, citizens and other non-expert actors shape biobanks configurations?

•        How are subjectivities and collective identities shaped by the involvement in biobanking activities?

•        How are these varying forms of biosocial participation linked to the production of biovalue, and which kinds of biovalues generated?

Deadline for abstract submissions: April 30th, 2017

Abstracts (in English) with a maximum length of 500 words should be sent as email attachments to redazione@tecnoscienza.net and carbon copied to the guest editors. Notification of acceptance will be communicated by May 2017.  Full papers (in English with a maximum length of 8,000 words including notes and references) will be due by October 20th 2017 and will be subject to a double blind peer review process. We expect to publish the special issue in 2018.

For information and questions, please do not hesitate to contact the guest editors:

Lorenzo Beltrame, l.beltrame@exeter.ac.uk

Christine Hauskeller, c.hauskeller@exeter.ac.uk




Fannin, M. (2011) Personal stem cell banking and the problem with property, in “Social & Cultural Geography”, 12 (4), pp. 339-356.

Gibbon, S. and Novas, C. (eds.) (2008) Biosocialities, Genetics and the Social Sciences. Making Biologies and Identities, London and New York, Routledge.

Gottweis, H. and Lauss, G. (2011) Biobank governance: Heterogeneous modes of ordering and democratization, in “Journal of Community Genetics”, 3 (2), pp. 61-72.

Gottweis, H. and Petersen, A. (eds.) (2008) Biobanks. Governance in Comparative Perspective, London and New York, Routledge.

Hauskeller, C. and Beltrame, L. (2016a) Hybrid practices in cord blood banking. Rethinking the commodification of human tissues in the bioeconomy, in “New Genetics and Society”, 35 (3), pp. 228-245.

Hauskeller, C. and Beltrame, L. (2016b) The hybrid bioeconomy of umbilical cord blood banking: Re-examining the narrative of opposition between public and private services, in “BioSocieties”, 11(4), pp. 415-434.

Mitchell, R. and Waldby, C. (2010) National Biobanks: Clinical labor, risk production, and the creation of biovalue, in “Science, Technology & Human Values”, 35 (3), pp. 330-355.

Novas, C. (2006) The Political Economy of Hope: Patients’ Organizations, Science and Biovalue, in “BioSocieties”, 1 (3), pp. 289-305.

Novas, C. and Rose, N. (2000) Genetic risk and the birth of the somatic individual, in “Economy and Society”, 29 (4), pp. 485-513.

Rabinow, P. (1996) Artificiality and Enlightment: from sociobiology to biosociality, in Id. Essays on the Anthropology of Reason, Princeton (NJ), Princeton University Press.

Rose, N. (2001) The Politics of Life Itself, in “Theory, Culture & Society”, 18 (6), pp. 1-30.

Rose, N. and Novas, C. (2005), Biological citizenship, in A. Ong and S. J. Collier (eds.), Global Assemblages. Technology, Politics, and Ethics as Anthropological Problems, Oxford, Blackwell, pp. 439-463.

Sunder Rajan, K. (2006), Biocapital. The Constitution of Postgenomic Life, Durham (NC)/London, Duke University Press.

Waldby, C. (2002) Stem cells, tissue cultures and the production of biovalue, in “Health”, 6 (3), pp. 305-323.

Waldby, C. and Mitchell, R. (2006), Tissue Economies. Blood, Organs, and Cell Lines in Late Capitalism, Durham, NC/London, Duke University Press.

ISSN: 2038-3460