This book has produced an ethnography of promises as they operated in and through genomics in Iceland and the United States. It might be thought of as a response to one overarching question, “How do you tell the difference, if there is one, between a pharmakon and a pharma con?” Or in the condensed form that sophisticated investors in Iceland, the United States, and other hot spots of the globalizing life sciences business would have started asking themselves in the final years of the twentieth century, “deCODE Genetics: pharmakon or pharma con?” The novels of Halldór Laxness harbor more than a few con artists. It does not matter whether we could finally decide that deCODE was a con or the greatest corporation ever. Reading promising genomics is not a matter of knowing what “is” the case; promising runs on what cannot be known. What matters is the circulation, the effects, the action set in motion by the volatility of the chiasmus. What matters is the flowering, the excessive and ephemeral.
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