, Volume 8, Issue 1, pp 25–40 | Cite as

Ethic of consensibility, subaltern ethicality: The clinical application of embryonic stem cells in India

  • Aditya Bharadwaj
Original Article


The article interrogates clinical and subjective patient experiences outside the institutionalized conditions of scientific communication. Drawing on the notion of consensibility – consensual and circumscribed rules of scientific engagement – the article re-imagines ethicality on the margins of an ethic of consensibility as inherently subaltern. The article is based on a multi-sited ethnography focused on a small clinical facility in India offering human embryonic stem cell (hESC) therapies for a spectrum of disorders to local and global patients. The emergence of subaltern ethicality, the article argues, is intimately linked to ‘somatic ethics’ in the event that a somatic ethical stance is operationalized outside the consensible space of science. The article draws on interview material with the clinical director and therapeutic experiences of patients from Germany, United States and Australia undergoing hESC therapy for chronic spinal cord injuries and lyme disease. In so doing, the article shows how subaltern ethicality is an ironic, critical stance pitted against demands for (bio)scientific and (bio)ethical consensibility while seeking to become incorporated and normalized within its folds.


stem cells India consensibility subaltern ethics 



I wish to thank the anonymous referees for their extremely generous, detailed and valuable comments. I am grateful to the special issue editors for their editorial input and for keeping me within the word limit. Last but not the least, I remain indebted to the research participants who so openly and unconditionally shared their everyday experiences and struggles.


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Copyright information

© The London School of Economics and Political Science 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aditya Bharadwaj
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Anthropology and SociologyThe Graduate Institute of International and Development StudiesSwitzerland

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