Reshaping the Politics of Science: Bioscience Governance in Indonesia


The last few years have brought to the fore the brilliant work of scientists as they worked to find a vaccine for Covid-19. But have you ever stopped to think about the role of biological materials in this and other science- and health-related research?

In this episode of SSEAC Stories, Dr Natali Pearson is joined by Associate Professor Sonja van Wichelen to take a close look at the complex world of global health governance, with a particular focus on biotechnology and bioscience governance in Indonesia. They discuss the crucial role of biological materials exchange for scientific research, what rules govern their use, and the history of inequality that has underpinned scientific use of biological materials. Taking Indonesia’s recent efforts to gain leverage in the uneven space of the global bioeconomy, they explore how bioscience governance mechanisms can perpetuate, or sometimes help address, global power inequalities in the way biological material is used.

About Sonja van Wichelen:

Sonja van Wichelen is Associate Professor with the School for Social and Political Sciences at the University of Sydney. She researches the social implications of biotechnology and law and has focused on reproductive technologies in previous projects. More recently she is examining bioscience governance in Southeast Asia. Focusing on Indonesia, she is particularly interested in the relationship between regulatory frameworks and global inequality. She is the author of Legitimating Life: Adoption in the Age of Globalization and Biotechnology (Rutgers University Press, 2019), and Religion, Gender, and Politics in Indonesia: Disputing the Muslim Body (Routledge, 2010).

For more information or to browse additional resources, visit the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre’s website:

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Natali Pearson

Dr Natali Pearson is Curriculum Coordinator at the Sydney Southeast Asia Centre, a university-wide multidisciplinary center at the University of Sydney, Australia. Her research focuses on the protection, management and interpretation of underwater cultural heritage in Southeast Asia.

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