Promissory futures and possible pasts: The dynamics of contemporary expectations in regenerative medicine
Recent years have seen a number of attempts to define the field of regenerative medicine (RM) published in the scientific literature. Key issues addressed include which technologies belong under the umbrella of RM, where the proper origins of the field lie, and what the prospects are for its future. I argue that these competing visions for the field are qualitatively different from the initial technological expectations deployed when RM began to emerge in the 1990s and represent a qualitatively different stage of the field's development. A significant characteristic of this stage is that proponents of RM must not only continue to present hope for the field, but also account for prior sets of expectations that have been, at least partly, unfulfilled. Drawing on work from the sociology of expectations and STS (science and technology studies)-informed studies on scientific disciplinarity, these recent definitions of RM are analysed in terms of the promissory work they do and the means they employ to do it. Particular attention is drawn to the deployment of historiographic origin stories to support competing accounts of RM. These possible pasts act as a discursive means of colonising the past in order to reconcile prior unfulfilled promises with current visions of the field. © 2012 The London School of Economics and Political Science.