In a general practice in the United Kingdom, a patient informs her GP about the implications of her genetic risks that she has recently learned from sending her salvia to a direct-to-consumer genetic testing company. At the same time at a nearby supermarket, a concerned mother meticulously scrutinizes the labels of the soya milk that she is about to buy for her child—is it GM free? Roughly a thousand miles to the north, a Swedish patient decides to venture to China to undergo regenerative therapies that are not legally available in his home country, while Swedish researchers tinker with transgenic mice to find cures for the disease that this very patient is suffering from (research that a group of animal rights activists in Austria finds deeply worrisome). Detached from these locations and spaces and yet connected, policy-makers in Brussels ponder over how these various subjects and objects can be integrated into innovation policies, to make sure that Europe does not divert from her ambitious path towards a promising knowledge-based future.
     These instances take place in different spaces, and they involve different objects and subjects and quite distinct relations between them. Yet, what might we learn if we cease to treat them as different and isolated phenomena and choose instead to bring these various instances together? What insights may such a socio-temporal ‘convergence’ yield? What may we learn from comparing their similarities and differences as engagement with forms of ‘life’? These are questions that inform the new COST Action on ‘Bio-objects and their Boundaries’ that we introduce at this one day conference. The central tenet of this Action is the understanding that whilst the bio-sciences do different things in different places and mean different things to different actors, much can be learnt if we try to assemble these different things—as well as the researchers that conduct research on them. This COST Action ventures into such an endeavor through the concept of ‘bio-objects’.
     In a nutshell, ‘bio-objects’ refer to new living materials that disrupt formerly established boundaries and modes of ordering, as well as to ‘old matters of life’ that are ‘revitalized’ when brought into new spaces. However, rather than a ready-made concept—or even Theory with a capital T—‘bio-objects’ are a new heuristic device – or, in one sense, a boundary object - that is waiting to be filled with meaning. Filling bio-objects with meaning by drawing on empirical research on bio-objects, following their making and stabilization, their movements and circulations, their trajectories and life lines, and their governance and regulation, in different spaces and at different scales, is the ambition of this Action. In doing so, we want to provide both new analytical and policy-relevant contributions towards the understanding and oversight of these troublesome ‘creatures’.
     This Conference is our first step in this endeavor. It features research on particular bio-objects, such as stem cells or transgenic mice.
In particular, the Conference will explore:
the taxonomies and boundaries that are being challenged and changed through bio-objects, or that are rendered all the more salient and robust by them;
the ways in which these bio-objects are governed, and -vice-versa-, the ways in which bio-objects become themselves means through which societies are being ordered and governed; and
those generative relations that facilitate the emergence of bio-objects and that are themselves modified through the emergence of bio-objects,
  The Conference seeks to capitalize on bio-objects to start to think out loudly and collectively about what ‘life’ and ‘living’ mean in the beginning of the 21st century and how life is made to matter.
  Speakers will include: Andrew Webster, Inigo De Miguel, Isabelle Dussauge, Alex Faulkner, Ine van Hoyweghen and Gisli Palsson
If you want to join us in this experiment—or maybe, and even better, want to share some of the path of our endeavor by becoming a part of this network—you are more than welcome!
  Last updated 05/10/2011