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Of Rabbits and Men, or: How to Study Innovation in Nanomedicine

  • Wiebke SchärEmail author
Chapter
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Abstract

Innovations in nanomedicine promise better treatments and therapy. The Section of Experimental Oncology and Nanomedicine in Erlangen is in the process of developing a new kind of cancer therapy based on the concept of magnet drug targeting, using nano-particles as carriers. In this chapter, I present material from an ethnography I conducted at that Section. Using this ethnography, I will argue that sociological analyses of research and innovation in nanomedicine are inadequate if described on the basis of an a priori distinction between the ‘social’ and the ‘material’. By considering experimentational practices in Erlangen, I will argue instead that the ‘social’ as object of sociological analysis becomes extremely problematic in association with objects and materials, which are usually excluded from most sociological explanations that tend to reserve the notion of “actor” (and indeed the social itself) to humans exclusively. Through deploying Actor-Network Theory as a method rather than a theory, I present a sociological approach that enables an analysis of nano-medical research and innovations without having to invoke the traditional socio-scientific boundaries and demarcations of nature/culture, human/non-human and social/technical. If ethnographic research does not require these boundaries to make sense of particular practices, the onus should be placed instead on those wishing to maintain these boundaries, to provide a convincing argument why they are so important.

Keywords

Ethnography Innovation Nanomedicine Actor-Network Theory Methodology 

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Copyright information

© Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden GmbH, ein Teil von Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.sine – Süddeutsches Institut für empirische Sozialforschung e. V.MunichGermany

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