MIT21A_355Js09_assn05_sw2B

MIT21A_355Js09_assn05_sw2B - MIT OpenCourseWare...

Info iconThis preview shows pages 1–4. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
MIT OpenCourseWare http://ocw.mit.edu 21A.355J / STS.060J The Anthropology of Biology Spring 2009 For information about citing these materials or our Terms of Use, visit: http://ocw.mit.edu/terms .
Background image of page 1

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
1 STS.060J The Anthropology of Biology Stefan Helmreich Dissolution of Identity and the Commodification of Biology The wide variety of living organisms and our increasing ability to resolve their structure has intimately connected biology with the ability to probe scales. Mimicking the developments of the physical sciences, existing biological narratives purport to provide understanding through greater resolution in both time and space. Scale, in both the vernacular and the scientific sense, represents a unique pseudo- boundary. By its definition it represents a continuum yet one whose utility is almost entirely dependent on its ability to demonstrate (or construct) exaggerated difference. We therefore implement this metric to distinguish between one second and the next, or between one second and one lifetime. References to scales, both temporal (a day, a life, a lineage) and spatial (the gene, tissue, organism, population), depend entirely on the metric associated with their crossing. In this paper, I argue that the traversal, transversal, and inversion of natural scales enables the objectification and commodification of the biological body by means of a spatio-temporal delocalization of identities and personhood. Scale, then, is as much an actor in the capitalist narrative as it is an indicator of emerging trends in the transformation of the biological. Furthermore, this relationship is reciprocal. As the muddling of scales effects the commodification of the body, so to does commodification of the body necessitate the creation of a corresponding ambiguity in spatio-temporal status. This paper, perhaps unlike our understanding of the body, must begin somewhere. I therefore start with perhaps the most celebrated example of biological engineering: Dolly the sheep. I follow the identity of this entity as clearly as I can through its various spatial and temporal transformations, seeing how conceptions of its biological
Background image of page 2
2 identity (or perhaps biological conceptions of identity) transform in accordance with its respatialization and retemporalization. I then progress to examples further removed from such blatant bioengineering to demonstrate that the relationship between delocalization and commodification is maintained even in instances wherein human influence on the biological is not as readily apparent. Donna Haraway attributes our fascination with engineered organisms to the manner in which they “cross a culturally salient line between nature and artifice.” Prior conceptions of the cultural as that which is non-natural begin to erode when culture begins to produce animated organisms which in their own right act and reproduce in an apparently natural manner. As Rabinow suggests, our power over biological substrate and the subsequent emergence and advancement of biosociality has
Background image of page 3

Info iconThis preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full DocumentRight Arrow Icon
Image of page 4
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Page1 / 9

MIT21A_355Js09_assn05_sw2B - MIT OpenCourseWare...

This preview shows document pages 1 - 4. Sign up to view the full document.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Ask a homework question - tutors are online