Dehistoricizing History

The Ethical Dilemma of "East Asian Bioethics"

Author: Jennifer Robertson


This article traces the unsettling history behind the concept of “East Asian bioethics,” a term coined in the mid 1990s, and raises questions about processes of history-making (and -unmaking) in bioethical debates. A barometer of sociopolitical attitudes and orientations, bioethics poses reflexive questions about cultural, national, and global identity. The century-old janusian relationship between eugenics and bioethics continues to inform the popular perception of the nature and future of postmodern Japan, which since the mid 1990s has been shaped by an asymmetrical and ahistorical celebration of pan-Asianism. The bioethical dilemma posed and produced by a politics of renewal and strategic “dehistoricization,” together with “reasianization,” is introduced and analyzed.

Regions: East Asia
Countries: Japan

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