Biotech pilgrims and the transnational quest for stem cell cures

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86 Scopus citations


Thousands of patients with incurable neurodegenerative conditions from more than 60 countries have sought fetal cell transplants in China since 2001. Drawing on 24 months of ethnographic fieldwork, I investigate these transnational encounters occurring in the realm of experimental medicine. Critiquing popular notions of "medical tourism," I develop the alternative concept of "biotech pilgrimage" to reveal how faith intertwines with technology, travel, and the political economies of health care and medical research in a global era. Insights from pilgrimage theory enable us to question assumptions of leisure embedded in claims of tourism while also exploring new biopolitical practices that extend beyond the borders of the nation-state. I also demonstrate how materialist visions of salvation underlie medical practice and contribute to China's rising influence as a global technological leader.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)384-402
Number of pages19
JournalMedical Anthropology: Cross Cultural Studies in Health and Illness
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Health(social science)
  • Anthropology


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