Kaushik Sunder Rajan


Contact Information

Office: Haskell 314
Phone: (773) 702-6151
Email: ksunderr@uchicago.edu
Website: n/a

(PhD, MIT, 2002) Associate Professor of Anthropology and of Social Sciences in the College was initially trained as a biologist, obtained his PhD in the History and Social Studies of Science and Technology, and works on the anthropology of science, technology and medicine. His work has focused on a number of interrelated events and emergences: firstly, the increased corporatization of life science research; secondly, the emergence of new technologies and epistemologies within the life sciences, such as, significantly, genomics; and thirdly, the fact that these technoscientific and market emergences were not simply occurring in the United States, but rather globally. His book, Biocapital: The Constitution of Post-Genomic Life, tries to capture a flavor of these emergences. On the one hand, it is a multi-sited ethnography of emergent genomic research and drug development marketplaces in the United States and India. On the other hand, it traces the historical emergence of what he calls biocapital in the late 20th century, which asks questions of the nature and manner of the co-production of economic and epistemic value in the life sciences today. In the former register, Sunder Rajan’s work has followed a number of actors – scientists, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists and policy makers – involved in genomics research and market development in a range of sites in the US and India (in the US, primarily in the Bay Area; in India, primarily in Delhi, Bombay and Hyderabad). In the latter register, his work engages social theories of epistemology, political economy, ethics, subjectivity, language and value (most directly the analysis of Karl Marx, Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida), in order to provide ways to think about a current moment in world history that is significantly shaped by techno-scientific capitalism. Sunder Rajan is currently researching two distinct though inter-related new projects. One focuses on the political economy of pharmaceutical development in India in the context of changes in global capital flows and governance regimes. This has two aspects to it: 1) A study of capacity building for global pharmaceutical clinical trials in India and 2) A study of the consequences of India’s new, World Trade Organization (WTO) compliant, patent regime on the Indian pharmaceutical industry and on access to essential medicines. The second project focuses on the changing nature of the research university in India in the life sciences. The focal point here is the Translational Health Science and Technology Institute (THSTI), a new biomedical research institute being set up as a collaboration between the Government of India’s Department of Biotechnology (DBT) and the Division of Health, Science and Technology (HST) at MIT. This involves tracing a) The history and context of institutional development in Indian life sciences; b) The history and context of translational research as a category and mode of research in the United States; and c) The nature of global institutional and research collaborations in the life sciences.

Selected Works

Selected Publications

Year Title / Publications PDF
n.d. Pharmocracy: Trials of Global Biomedicine. Duke University Press (under review).
n.d. Trans-formations of Biology and of Theory. In D. Boyer, J. Faubioin and G. Marcus, eds., Theory is more than it used to be. Cornell University Press (in press).
2015 Courting Innovation: The Constitution(s) of Indian Biomedicine. In S. Hilgartner, C. Miller and R. Hadendijk, eds., Science and Democracy: Making Knowledge and Making Power in the Biosciences and Beyond. Routledge, pp. 56-73.
2014 (w/ Judith Farquhar) "Introduction" to Special Issue on Knowledge/Value : Information, Archives, Databases. East Asian Science, Technology and Society. 8(4): 383-89.
2013 (w/ Sabina Leonelli) Introduction: Biomedical Trans-actions, Postgenomics, and Knowledge/Value. Public Culture. 25(3): 463-476.
2012 (Ed.) Lively Capital: Biotechnologies, Ethics and Governance in Global Markets. Duke University Press.
2012 Pharmaceutical Crises and Questions of Value: Terrains and Logics of Global Therapeutic Politics. South Atlantic Quarterly. 111(2):321-346.
2011 Teaching with George Marcus (and Learning from Michael Fischer): Pedagogy as Multi-Sited Ethnography. In S. Coleman and P. von Hellermann, eds., Multi-Sited Ethnography: Problems and Possibilities in the Translocation of Research Methods. Routledge, 174-193.
2011 Two Tales of Genomics: Capital, Epistemology, and Global Constitutions of the Biomedical Subject. In S. Jasanoff, ed., Reframing Rights: Bioconstitutionalism in the Genetic Age. MIT Press, 193-216.
2011 Property, Rights, and the Constitution of Indian Biomedicine: Notes from the Gleevec Case. Social Research. 78(3):975-998.
2010 The Experimental Machinery of Global Clinical Trials: Case Studies from India. In A. Ong and N. Chen, eds., Asian Biotech: Ethics and Communities of Fate. Duke University Press, 55-80.
2007 Experimental Values: Indian Clinical Trials and Surplus Health. New Left Review, 45: 67-88.
2007 Biocapital as an Emergent Form of Life: Speculations on the Figure of the Experimental Subject. In S. Gibbon & C. Novas, eds., Biosocialities, Genetics and the Social Sciences: Making Biologies and Identities. Routledge, 157-186.
2006 Biocapital: The Constitution of Post-Genomic Life. Duke University Press.
2005 Subjects of Speculation: Emergent Life Sciences and Market Logics in the US and India. American Anthropologist 107(1): 19-30.
2003 Genomic Capital: Public Cultures and Market Logics of Corporate Biotechnology. Science as Culture 12(1): 87-121.
2002 Banking (on) Biologicals: Commodifying the Global Circulations of Human Genetic Material. Sarai Reader 02: The Cities of Everyday Life, 277-289.