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Biomedical Odysseys

Based on a decade of multi-sited ethnographic research funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation, this TechCare project addresses the globalization of experimental medicine. The Biomedical Odysseys Project analyses the challenges of regulating experimental medical treatment in a globalized era, the ways in which digital communication technologies are transforming patient activism in both China and the U.S., and the unintended consequences of Chinese healthcare reforms. 

In “Biotech Pilgrims and the Transnational Quest for Stem Cell Cures,” Dr. Priscilla Song critiques the overused concept of medical tourism by proposing the alternative paradigm of “biotech pilgrimage.” Published in the journal Medical Anthropology, this article has been cited over 100 times by scholars publishing in diverse fields such as health care sciences and services, clinical medicine disciplines, psychology, cell biology, geography, sociology, international relations, medical ethics, public health, government law, and business economics.

The project culminated in the book Biomedical Odysseys: Fetal Cell Experiments from Cyberspace to China (Princeton University Press 2017), written by Dr. Priscilla Song. The book is part of the Princeton Studies in Culture and Technology series, which “showcases the best work in this exciting new field of anthropological inquiry” in order to “demonstrate the relevance of anthropology to some of the most consequential and cutting-edge social, economic, and technological phenomena of our day.”

Summarizing the “path-breaking ethnography” as “one of the finest that I have read engaging China at the intersection of Medical Anthropology and Science, Technology, and Society Studies,” external reviewers for the press highlighted the “stunning account of experimentality and hope texturing regenerative medicine,” the “unparalleled level of ethnographic detail and nuance,” and the “innovative ethnographic methodologies and heuristics, which will be of importance to social scientists for decades to come.

Biomedical Odysseys received the 2018 Francis Hsu Book Prize from the Society for East Asian Anthropology (a section of the American Anthropological Association) for the book judged to have made the most significant contribution to the field.

Book reviews for Biomedical Odysseys

➤ Publications

Song, Priscilla. “Biotech Pilgrims and the Transnational Quest for Stem Cell Cures.” Medical Anthropology: Cross-Cultural Studies in Health & Illness 29(4): 384-402 (2010).

Song, Priscilla. “The Proliferation of Stem Cell Therapies in Post-Mao China: Problematizing Ethical Regulation.” New Genetics and Society 30(2): 141-153 (2011).

Song, Priscilla. “The Proliferation of Stem Cell Therapies in Post-Mao China.” In Stem Cell Research in Asia: Looking Beyond Regulatory Exteriors. Edited by Margaret Sleeboom-Faulkner. London: Routledge, pp. 5-18 (2015).

Song, Priscilla. Biomedical Odysseys: Fetal Cell Experiments from Cyberspace to China. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press (2017). 296pp.

Song, Priscilla. “Negotiating Evidence and Efficacy in Experimental Medicine.” Chapter 3 in: Can Science and Technology Save China? Edited by Susan Greenhalgh and Li Zhang. Ithaca: Cornell University Press (2020).

➤ Resources

CareCure website (the largest and most active website worldwide for people with spinal cord injuries, their families, caretakers, and medical personnel):