Fujimura, Joan H.
A Sociohistory of the Quest for the Genetics of Cancer
Aims and Scope
During the late 1970s and 1980s, "cancer" underwent a remarkable transformation. In one short decade, what had long been a set of heterogeneous diseases marked by uncontrolled cell growth became a disease of our genes. How this happened and what it means is the story Joan Fujimura tells in a rare inside look at the way science works and knowledge is created. A dramatic study of a new species of scientific revolution, this book combines a detailed ethnography of scientific thought, an in-depth account of science practiced and produced, a history of one branch of science as it entered the limelight, and a view of the impact of new genetic technologies on science and society.
The scientific enterprise that Fujimura unfolds for us is proto-oncogene cancer research--the study of those segments of DNA now thought to make normal cells cancerous. Within this framework, she describes the processes of knowledge construction as a social enterprise, an endless series of negotiations in which theories, material technologies, and practices are co-constructed, incorporated, and refashioned. Along the way, Fujimura addresses long-standing questions in the history and philosophy of science, culture theory, and sociology of science: How do scientists create "good" problems, experiments, and solutions? What are the cultural, institutional, and material technologies that have to be in place for new truths and new practices to succeed?
Portraying the development of knowledge as a multidimensional process conducted through multiple cultures, institutions, actors, objects, and practices, this book disrupts divisions among sociology, history, anthropology, and the philosophy of science, technology, and medicine.
- x, 322 pages
- 5 Fig. 4 Tables
- HARVARD UNIVERSITY PRESS
- Professional and scholarly;
MARC recordMARC record for eBook
Fujimura...explores the development of the proto-oncogene theory in cancer research to illustrate the process of change and continuity in science...[She] provides an objective, scholarly work.
In Crafting Science, Joan Fujimura provides her readers with a detailed, sociologically grounded introduction to one of the major and most innovative areas of contemporary biomedical research, the search for the causes and treatment of cancer. She considers the roles played by a bewildering array of actors, ranging from biomedical scientists and their research materials, inbred murine lines bearing the traces of mysterious oncogenes, to shareholders in companies dedicated to the commercial exploitation of these scientists' findings.
I would describe the main contribution of Crafting Science as the synthesis of the American pragmatist tradition in sociology with the largely European, post 1960s sociology of scientific knowledge, particularly the successor program known as actor-network theory associated with Michel Callon and Bruno Latour. By bringing the two traditions together, Fujimura both develops science studies theory and provides a new perspective on a research program that has come to dominate cancer research: the study of oncogenes, or genes thought to play a crucial role in tumor genesis and growth.
This is a book that rewards the reader's attention, and the real payoff comes at the end. In the final chapter, Fujimura works from the particular history of cancer and oncogenes to the general idea of scientific progress. Here, in the most rewarding part of Crafting Science, she develops an account of how scientific ideas change through time, a "pragmatic" account that differs from at least two of the more familiar ideas about progress in science. Because she stresses the way in which scientific terms shift in meaning as interests and technology change, Fujimura rejects the view that information simply accumulates. Her picture also differs from the common idea of "revolution" in science, in which theories are thought to change so fundamentally that no real conversation is possible between competing outlooks. Despite major twists and reversals in the history of scientific ideas, the overall landscape may remain recognizable. To Fujimura, the coherence and continuity of theories and theoretical entities are as important as the changes and discontinuities, and these all are in need of explanation. Satisfying explanations are those that show how scientific problems and solutions mesh with society's priorities and prejudices.