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Title: Debating stem cell research and human cloning : multiple meanings, competing constructions
Author: Parry, Sarah
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2004
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The stem cell research (SCR) and human cloning debates are a site where we can explore the multiple and competing constructions associated with new and controversial technological innovations. The aim of this thesis is to explore the multiple and competing discursive constructions of these developments, tracing how dominant definitions have emerged and others marginalised or silenced. By analysing the public debates I am able to explore the negotiation of discursive boundaries during current processes of entrenchment. In order to access a range of meanings, the thesis draws on four sites of qualitative data collection: 1) the UK parliamentary debates that led to the amendment to the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Act (1990) to permit embryonic SCR, 2) interviews and focus groups with couples in IVF programmes who are potential embryo donors for SCR, 3) interviews and focus groups with patient support groups on whose lives SCR may have an impact, 4) interviews with scientists working in the field of SCR and cloning-related developments. The starting point for my research is a discursive analysis of the UK Parliamentary debates on cloning and SCR where I examine the rhetorical strategies of and manoeuvrings over the meanings of stem cells, cloning and embryos. Here I draw parallels with the rhetorical devices and legislative outcomes of the embryo debates from the 1980s, such as the return to the 'embryo question' and the construction of health and illness. Following on from this the thesis explores the perspectives of scientists, patient group members and those enrolled in IVF programmes, in order to access their views within their own terms of reference. This part of my thesis examines the uses of cultural tropes and idioms, such as the cultural framing of risk, and constructions of science, public(s) and expertise. Shaped by the disciplinary and methodological foundations of cultural studies, sociology and science and technology studies, I have focus upon how constructions of SCR and human cloning-related developments are embedded in wider social norms and values. Central to my analysis is the mobilisation, negotiation and reconstruction of binary classificatory systems by a range of actors within the debates. Categories, such as nature/culture, health/illness, expert/lay, science/society, serve as powerful, yet flexible, rhetorical tools through which meanings around SCR and cloning are negotiated. In the context of sciencepublic relations in the SCR and cloning debates, my research elaborates on how demarcations between expert/lay, objectivity/subjectivity etc. are flexibly rendered in ways that preserve the hegemonic position of science and scientists, thus marginalising alternative accounts. At the same time, however, I illustrate that some scientists are presenting more reflexive accounts of their work, pointing to a shift in expert/lay relations. In adopting an eclectic theoretical framework, my thesis contributes to contemporary sociological debates including critical approaches to the public understanding of science, sociocultural constructions of risk and the (re)constitution of classificatory systems. By identifying 'experts" rhetorical manoeuvrings and devices alongside that of the 'public', this research offers a valuable contribution to debates on science-public relations - one which facilitates a more inclusive discussion of the current and future implications of SCR and cloningrelated developments as well as policy decision-making processes.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available