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Deadly Biocultures

The Ethics of Life-Making

2019
Authors:

Nadine Ehlers and Shiloh Krupar

Deadly Biocultures

A trenchant analysis of the dark side of regulatory life-making today

Deadly Biocultures examines the affirmation to hope, target, thrive, secure, and green in the respective biocultures of cancer, race-based health, fatness, aging, and the afterlife. Its chapters focus on specific practices, technologies, or techniques that ostensibly affirm life and suggest life’s inextricable links to capital but that also engender a politics of death and erasure.

In their seemingly relentless pursuit of life, do contemporary U.S. “biocultures”—where biomedicine extends beyond the formal institutions of the clinic, hospital, and lab to everyday cultural practices—also engage in a deadly endeavor? Challenging us to question their implications, Deadly Biocultures shows that efforts to “make live” are accompanied by the twin operation of “let die”: they validate and enhance lives seen as economically viable, self-sustaining, productive, and oriented toward the future and optimism while reinforcing inequitable distributions of life based on race, class, gender, and dis/ability. Affirming life can obscure death, create deadly conditions, and even kill.

Deadly Biocultures examines the affirmation to hope, target, thrive, secure, and green in the respective biocultures of cancer, race-based health, fatness, aging, and the afterlife. Its chapters focus on specific practices, technologies, or techniques that ostensibly affirm life and suggest life’s inextricable links to capital but that also engender a politics of death and erasure. The authors ultimately ask: what alternative social forms and individual practices might be mapped onto or intersect with biomedicine for more equitable biofutures?

Deadly Biocultures

Nadine Ehlers teaches sociology at the University of Sydney. She is author of Racial Imperatives: Discipline, Performativity, and Struggles against Subjection and coeditor of Subprime Health: Debt and Race in U.S. Medicine (Minnesota, 2017).

Shiloh Krupar is Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor in the School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, where she chairs the Culture and Politics Program. She is author of Hot Spotter’s Report: Military Fables of Toxic Waste (Minnesota, 2013).

Deadly Biocultures

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction

1. Hope

2. Target

3. Thrive

4. Secure

5. Green

Coda: Endure

Notes

Index