Making bodily commodities

Transformations of property, object and labour in the neoliberal bioeconomy

Authored by: Maria Fannin

The Handbook of Neoliberalism

Print publication date:  June  2016
Online publication date:  July  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138844001
eBook ISBN: 9781315730660
Adobe ISBN: 9781317549666


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This chapter reviews scholarship on bodily commodification in light of new technologies in medicine, science and technology. I specifically highlight debates over the making of human bodies and body parts into new and contested forms of ‘property’ in the life sciences, a domain increasingly identified as the site of new forms of capitalist accumulation by a number of commentators (Sunder Rajan 2006; Waldby and Mitchell 2006; Cooper 2008; Rabinow 1996; Scheper-Hughes 2001). The role of neoliberalism in shaping the discourse and practice of science has thus increasingly been identified as a key element of the contemporary ‘bioeconomy’, whether this new economic form is characterized as a set of policy initiatives designed to enhance national or regional competitiveness (Birch 2006) or as a more open-ended ‘promissory construct that is meant to induce and facilitate some actions while deterring others’ (Goven and Pavone 2015: 1). The literature on bodily commodities, or the transformation of bodily materials into research tools and marketable products, brings together analyses of the epistemological significance of modern science and medicine in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, the bodily technologies of discipline, governmentality, and self-making, and Marxist and feminist theoretical insights into the workings of neoliberal capitalism.

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