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Blood work: Investigating Cultures of Biomedicine in Malaysia and Britain

Janet Carsten

Funding: Leverhulme Trust

Started: January 1 2002


The research builds on my previous work on cultures of kinship in Malaysia and Britain (Carsten 1997; 2000; 2004), and extends this into biomedical settings.

It will take place in two linked phases in Penang and Edinburgh, both cities with extensive hospital, clinical, research, and teaching facilities.

Aims and objectives

How do people deal with different orders of knowledge when the same object is the focus of scientific investigation and cultural or moral discourses?

Blood is an example of such an object - a marker of cultural identity, and the object of scientific knowledge.

This project will investigate how professionals with clinical, scientific, and technical expertise negotiate popular and biomedical understandings of blood in their working practices.

Based on comparative fieldwork in Malaysia and Britain, where blood participates differently in discourses of kinship and identity, the research will illuminate how different kinds of knowledge are compartmentalised or inflect each other.

Research methods

Standard social anthropological methods: participant observation, observation, interviews.