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Questioning hype, rescuing Hope? The Hwang stem cell scandal and the reassertion of hopeful horizons

Kitzinger, Jenny ORCID: 2008. Questioning hype, rescuing Hope? The Hwang stem cell scandal and the reassertion of hopeful horizons. Science as Culture 17 (4) , pp. 417-434. 10.1080/09505430802515114

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The trajectory of stem cell research in the early years of the twenty-first century offers a useful case study for the sociology of expectations. A phase of ‘Visionary Promise’ (2000 onwards) was followed by the ‘Breakthrough phase’ (2004 to mid-2005); however, in late 2005, key breakthroughs were revealed as highly problematic leading to a period of setback and renegotiation. This article examines the recurring rhetorical themes across each phase (e.g. appeals to imaginative identification), but also highlights how specific rhetorical devices came to the fore in different periods. In 2004/5 the apparently landmark achievements in South Korea were used to vindicate past decisions and add urgency to future efforts. However, once fraud was revealed, scientists and policy makers had to work hard to rescue hope for (at least part of) the embryo stem cell enterprise. During this phase proponents reiterated the ‘promise’ of (at least some types) of stem cell research and made specific uses of the landmark metaphor to encourage continued support for the enterprise as a whole. They were also involved in sophisticated boundary management techniques: redrawing lines between scientists, between nations and between diverse types of stem cell research. This article argues that it is important to go beyond accusations of ‘hype’ to examine the complex processes involved in the creation, management and repair of hope and that this may best be pursued through tracking promise-making over time—especially through periods of change (around legislation), celebration (around breakthroughs) and setback (around fraud).

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Journalism, Media and Culture
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General)
Q Science > QH Natural history
Uncontrolled Keywords: stem cell, fraud, hope
Additional Information: Stem Cell Technologies 1998–2008: Controversies And Silences
Publisher: Taylor & Francis
ISSN: 0950-5431
Last Modified: 18 Oct 2022 14:27

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