Culture and science: A critical assessment of public consultation about biotechnology in New Zealand

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2 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose This research investigated ideas regarding the concept of culture in contemporary New Zealand by critically evaluating the formal consultation processes surrounding the issue of genetic modification. Such analysis provides a basis for advising those who work within public relations on subtle forms of marginalisation and exclusion, which could be reduced with increased awareness of the dynamics of privilege. Design/methodology/approach The research design involved a multi-sited ethnographic approach drawing on three bodies of empirical data: participant observation within the Royal Commission of inquiry into genetic modification, textual analysis of the written submissions by Interested Persons to the inquiry, and interview material from people who were involved in the inquiry to varying degrees. Findings The main findings indicate that “culture” is often used in bureaucratic structures to describe the knowledges and practices of minority groups, where “minority” refers to those with less power, rather than those of smaller number. Lack of acknowledgement of the implicit privileging of dominant rhetorics allows for the further marginalisation of less-dominant viewpoints. Insofar as policymakers have a responsibility to incorporate moral legitimacy and social justice within legislation, the findings encourage alertness to the dynamics and implications of unintentional exclusion. Practical implications I aim to assist in providing a language with which to better articulate subtle dynamics of power and privilege, exclusion and marginalisation, both generally and within discussions of best practice in public relations. Originality/value By providing a critique of a particular consultative process, this research highlights some of the limitations of bureaucratic consultation and discusses these theoretically as well as descriptively. It is hoped that these critical observations (from within a consultation setting that was remarkably inclusive and egalitarian by most standards) will assist consultative and advisory bodies, as well as policymakers, to design more inclusive processes for democratic participation and deliberation, particularly in relation to controversial technologies.

Number of pages17
JournalJournal of Communication Management
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2006
Externally publishedYes


  • Genetic modification
  • Government
  • National cultures
  • New Zealand

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Strategy and Management

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