Paul Rabinow brings together years of distinguished work in this magisterial volume that seeks to reinvigorate the human sciences. Specifically, he assembles a set of conceptual tools--"modern equipment"--to assess how intellectual work is currently conducted and how it might change.
Anthropos Today crystallizes Rabinow's previous ethnographic inquiries into the production of truth about life in the world of biotechnology and genome mapping (and his invention of new ways of practicing this pursuit), and his findings on how new practices of life, labor, and language have emerged and been institutionalized. Here, Rabinow steps back from empirical research in order to reflect on the conceptual and ethical resources available today to conduct such inquiries.
Drawing richly on Foucault and many other thinkers including Weber and Dewey, Rabinow concludes that a "contingent practice" must be developed that focuses on "events of problematization." Brilliantly synthesizing insights from American, French, and German traditions, he offers a lucid, deeply learned, original discussion of how one might best think about anthropos today.
Both Rabinow and Marcus participated in the milestone collection Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography. Published in 1986, Writing Culture catalyzed a reassessment of how ethnographers encountered, studied, and wrote about their subjects. In the opening conversations of Designs for an Anthropology of the Contemporary, Rabinow and Marcus take stock of anthropology’s recent past by discussing the intellectual scene in which Writing Culture intervened, the book’s contributions, and its conceptual limitations. Considering how the field has developed since the publication of that volume, they address topics including ethnography’s self-reflexive turn, scholars’ increased focus on questions of identity, the Public Culture project, science and technology studies, and the changing interests and goals of students. Designs for an Anthropology of the Contemporary allows readers to eavesdrop on lively conversations between anthropologists who have helped to shape their field’s recent past and are deeply invested in its future.
Presenting a series of interviews with all of the key players in Celera Diagnostics, Paul Rabinow and Talia Dan-Cohen open a fascinating window on the complexity of corporate scientific innovation. This marks a radical departure from other books on the biotech industry by chronicling the vicissitudes of a project during a finite time period, in the words of the actors themselves.
Ultimately, the authors conclude, Celera Diagnostics is engaged in a future characterized not by geniuses and their celebrated discoveries but by a largely anonymous and widely distributed profusion of data and results--a "machine to make a future."
In their new afterword, Rabinow and Dan-Cohen revisit Celera Diagnostics as its mighty machine grinds along, wondering, along with the scientists, "what constitutes success and what constitutes failure?" The pathos of the situation turns on how one poses the question as much as how one answers it.