Hi Blog. I’m currently researching on the University of Hawaii Manoa Campus, and late last month I found this weird advertisement in the Ka Leo student newspaper (August 20, 2012, the debut issue for the start of the semester for maximum exposure):
“Have you ever wanted to help Japanese people in a way that could make a meaningful difference? Participating in a clinical trial can be a deeply rewarding way to possibly help advance medical breakthroughs in Japan.
“Volunteers should be: Healthy, between the ages of 18 and 60, born in Japan, or have both parents or all 4 grandparents born in Japan…
“Think you can volunteer? Great! COVANCE, Honolulu, Hawaii”
(Page 66. Click on the image to expand in your browser.)
Covance is the “Contract Research Organization for Drug Development Services”, according to their website (www.covance.com). Also, the link they provide in their advertisement above asks three locations (UK, United States (Global), and specifically Honolulu), and has only two languages: English and Japanese, indicating their strong links to Japan (and no doubt the subcontracting for Japanese-oriented research — tool around the Japanese version for awhile; fascinating reading).
The upshot: We want healthy “Japanese” for “medical breakthroughs in Japan” (as opposed to breakthroughs in medical science anywhere). I smell patents, or at least patently racist language of “testing Japanese for Japanese since Japanese bodies are different” that infiltrates Japan’s physical and social sciences. (see for example here and here).
What I find especially interesting about this ad is the imported racialized conceits about what defines a “Japanese”:
No doubt due to the sensitivities of the English-language audience, there is no mention of “Japanese blood” as a qualifier. No matter, that’s indirectly stated: Born in Japan, both parents born in Japan, or all four grandparents (we wouldn’t want a Non-“Japanese” grandparent sullying the mix, after all) for proper thoroughbred status.
I’m a Japanese, but I don’t qualify. Naturalized. So wrong blood. Sorry. And it still would be wrong, under the paradigms above, even if I had been born in Japan (say, to a family of diplomats or missionaries; they exist). Imagine Covance making the same stipulations for, oh, I don’t know, sickle-cell anemia research by asking for only “African-Americans” (or bona fide “Africans”) who have been born only to “pure-black” families stretching back three generations? That would raise some eyebrows. But not when we transpose it onto Japan-based conceits, where the racism is embedded.
What a pity. Nothing quite like getting fresh young people to “volunteer” their time and bodies for big pharma’s future profits. But what a way to do it: By advertising in a college campus newspaper drawing lines between people under questionable scientific rubric. I think we need better screening procedures not only within the medical community, but also within the media, so less of this racialized social science leaks into the physical sciences. Arudou Debito