Theory and Society

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 145–172 | Cite as

Classification conundrums: categorizing chimeras and enacting species preservation

  • Carrie Friese


Sociologists have challenged the discipline to account for and incorporate biological factors in their analyses. Heeding this call, this article asks how chimeras, a particularly puzzling biological organism, are being officially classified in the interrelated sites of endangered species preservation and the zoo. Based on a qualitative study of endeavors to clone endangered animals, I contend that biology alone cannot determine the classification of these interspecies organisms. Rather, categorizing chimeras requires metaphoric, schematic references to more familiar entities. Here culture and biology are tools for classification, which has consequences for preservation practices and the materiality of endangered wildlife. Drawing on the sociology of culture, I show that positions on classification represent an intermediary space for interpreting the relationship between meaning and action in discourse elaboration. Building on the sociology of science and technology, I show the epistemological limitations of understanding the biological as an a priori factor.


Endangered Species Nuclear Transfer Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer Captive Population Schematic Reference 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



The author would like to thank all the people who participated in this research. I would also like to thank Suki Ali, Rene Almeling, Adele Clarke, Janet Shim, Sara Shostak, Stefan Timmermans, Katherine Thomson, Charis Thompson, Rachel Washburn, an anonymous reviewer, and the Editor-in-Charge at Theory and Society for their extremely valuable comments on different drafts of this paper. This project was supported by the Center for Society and Genetics at the University of California, Los Angeles, the Graduate Student Research Award at the University of California, San Francisco, the Andrew Vincent White Scholarship at the University of California Humanities Research Institute, the Chancellor’s Dissertation Research Fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco, and the Anselm L. Strauss Dissertation Research Fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)LondonUK

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