The Voice on the Bridge: Taiwan's Regulatory Engagement with Global Pharmaceuticals

Volume 03, Issue 1

This paper analyzes Taiwan's engagement with the standardization of pharmaceutical clinical trials at the turn of this century. Unlike approaches that treat local encounters with globalization as either reluctant acceptance or lasting resistance, this study calls attention to a complicated process of negotiation, the conceptual gap between the illusion of a unified world and the reality of persistently divided nation-states. To address this gap, an ethnographic investigation is required. Two concepts, “bridging” and “voicing” (fasheng), are introduced in order to capture Taiwan's unstable status, what I term “the voice on the bridge,” in this process. Bridging emerged as a technical concept for evaluating pharmaceutical drugs' possible differential ethnic effects. But it also reflects the ambiguous reality of a world in which each state is an islet connected to others by imaginary bridges. Fasheng (“voicing”) has to do with Taiwan's long-held desire for world recognition as a state. This paper is an ethnography of globalization and the state that traces how Taiwan created a regulatory resolution through the idea of bridging and how this “voice” was articulated through various social strategies. It explores not only the complexity of interactions in the technical field of regulatory science, but also argues that looking at such entanglements of science and society makes it possible to move beyond simple interpretations of globalization.

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