Promising Potency: Bio-evangelical Networking in a Korean Stem Cell Enterprise

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The notion of potency has been central in the shaping of the field of stem cell sciences. It not only offers a unique promissory quality to stem cells, but also an interpretive flexibility that can be exploited outside of the scientific research community. One Korea-based stem cell company actively exploits this aspect to amplify its promise of experimental stem cell therapy through an evangelical Christian network. The notion of stem cells' potency is at the crux of their discursive maneuvers that portray stem cells as a ‘gift that God has prepared in our body.' In their entrepreneurial endeavor to exploit business opportunities in evangelical Christian communities, the company strategically exploits the differences between two social worlds (that of the stem cell research community and of evangelical Christians), reflecting a process of ‘bio-evangelical networking'. The presumed religion/science divide, the grammar of miracles, the convention of religious witnessing, as well as faith in this-worldly blessings are actively sought and mobilized as a backdrop for the proliferation of stem cell promises in this religious niche. The notion of potency, once constructed, reformulated, and even fetishized in the scientific community’s effort to consolidate public support, thereby becomes a problem for the stem cell enterprise itself.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)594-616
Number of pages23
JournalScience as Culture
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The fieldwork was supported by an IDRF fellowship from the Social Science Research Council, and the writing stage was partly supported by the European Research Council VITAL Grant (No. 639275), ?The Vitality of Disease?Quality of Life in the Making.? I would like to thank to Joseph Dumit, Ayo Wahlberg, Timothy Choy, Chris Kortright, Seo Young Park, Maya Costa-Pinto, and Euisol Jeong for reading and commenting on the manuscript at various stages. Editors of Science as Culture and anonymous reviewers have greatly helped me improve the article.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 Process Press.

Copyright 2020 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biotechnology
  • Health(social science)
  • Cultural Studies
  • Biomedical Engineering
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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