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Blood in the Archive: Rethinking the Public Umbilical Cord Blood Bank

Williams, Rosalind (2015) Blood in the Archive: Rethinking the Public Umbilical Cord Blood Bank. PhD thesis, University of York.

Available under License Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales.

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The collection of umbilical cord blood (UCB), a source of clinically-useful stem cells, has become a highly strategised process known as ‘banking’, with 160 banks globally. State-funded public banks rely on unremunerated donations of UCB from women. STS scholarship has explored the broader ethical and economic tensions of such banks and the private enterprises offering banking for a family’s exclusive future use of their own donated tissue. Less focus has been given to public banks’ institutional practices and strategic concerns. I address this gap by adopting an archival lens popularised by Jacques Derrida (1996). How, I explore, might it help to think of these collections not as banks, but as archives? Using a number of qualitative data collection approaches, I develop an archival anatomy to highlight different elements of these selective collections of biological matter. I explore the issues of archival order and the racialised dimension of tissue selection criteria that guide UCB collection. I also interrogate the exclusionary practices of these collections. Whose donations are excluded, and what does this mean for a system reliant on the appeal to communitarian donation? Attention is given to how use is made of the archive. How might archivists be making the collection more appealing to these users? This leads to an exploration of the risk of obsolescence in UCB collections which struggle to sustain relevance alongside changing clinical requirement. The thesis demonstrates how an archival lens offers the heuristic richness that ‘bank’ thinking cannot provide to highlight important aspects of operating and planning the future of a collection of biological material. It thus provides a novel contribution to the STS literature on regenerative medicine and tissue banking and the growing interdisciplinary corpus on the usefulness of the archive in understanding the complex aggregations of matter and data facilitated by contemporary technologies.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Sociology (York)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.682325
Depositing User: Rosalind Williams
Date Deposited: 01 Apr 2016 07:40
Last Modified: 24 Jul 2018 15:21
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/12189

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