Nanotechnology and the Global South: Exploratory views on characteristics, perceptions and paradigms

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Technoscience in Progress: Managing the Uncertainty of Nanotechnology, 2009, pp. 97 - 112
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In the Global North, confusion, hype and disagreement plague nanotechnology debates. In the meantime, the debate about the Global South's engagement with nanotechnology has forged ahead, assuming common understandings about what nanotechnology is and what it is not, as well as the general irrelevance of definitional debates. This despite evidence that nanotechnology is being presented in a conflicting manner in the literature, through mixed terminology and imagery, and that little has been documented about Southern understandings. Given the importance of understandings in the genetically-modified foods debate, the way nanotechnology is understood holds serious repercussions for the framing of its ethical, legal and social implications. This chapter reports on the perspectives of Thai and Australian key informants, from a broad range of fields. It seeks to explore and clarify how nanotechnology might be defined, perceived and framed in terms of the South. The results suggest that nanotechnology may be conceptualized in similar ways, focussing on near-term nanotechnology that is defined by a common set of characteristics. Yet, when it comes to the way these conceptualisations translate into applications, there may be large differences in nanotechnology's perceived scope, sophistication and complexity. This holds interesting ramifications for global nanotechnology discourse, particularly in terms of the assumed costs and infrastructure required to conduct nanotechnology research and development and the more general role the South will play in the global nanotechnology picture. © 2009 The authors and IOS Press. All rights reserved.
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