This essay is based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted with the Indian community in Houston, as part of a NIH/NHGRI-sponsored ethics study and sample collection initiative entitled 'Indian and Hindu Perspectives on Genetic Variation Research.' Taking a cue from my Indian interlocutors who largely support and readily respond to such initiatives on the grounds that they will undoubtedly serve 'humanity' and the common good, I explore notions of the commons that are created in the process of soliciting blood for genetic research. How does blood become the stuff of which a civic discourse is made? How do idealistic individual appeals to donate blood, ethics research protocols, open-source databases, debates on approaches to genetic research, patents and Intellectual Property regulations, markets and the nation-state itself variously engage, limit or further ideas of the common good? Moving much as my interlocutors do, between India and the United States, I explore the nature of the commons that is both imagined and pragmatically reckoned in both local and global diasporic contexts.
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