Monday, March 12, 2007

Thacker: Science and Gender (Jill Scott) and session 3 questions

From: Eugene Thacker
Date: Mon, 12 Mar 2007 12:18:38 -0400 (EDT)

Hi all-
Thanks Cathy for this excerpt -I was struck by your and Melinda's conclusions:
"Female reproductive biology is thus undergoing a complex rearticulation. New reproductive technologies like IVF have disaggregated it from its in vivo location, and stem cell technologies have diverted it into biomedical domains unconcerned with the production of children. Reproductive potential is now bifurcated. In vitro embryos and in vitro oöcytes can be transplanted to produce another human life, a child; and they can be biotechnically reconfigured in a laboratory, diverting their pluripotency into the production of embryonic stem cell lines."

What's interesting about this is that the oöcytes become this reservoir of "biovalue" (to use Cathy's term) - a kind of surplus that can be transformed"vertically" into a viable human life, as well as "horizontally" into a range of nonhuman biological entities (e.g. stem cell differentiation).

This seems to open onto other sets of questions as well. Without taking us toofar from Jill's questions, I wonder if this neoliberalization also relates to anew type of labor - one different from the maternal body and the attendant technologies involved in reproductive biology. What "labor" is performed by cells, eggs, and embryos? It sounds a bit ridiculous, I know (no, I don't mean embryos as a form of child labor in Chaplin's factory...). But much of the science behind these innovations is predicated on the notion that, given theright conditions (e.g. the right growth factors, etc.) a group of cells willthemselves differentiate in a particular way - with a minimum of intervention.Of course there is a lot of intervention. But the concept is that thebiological entities will do it themselves - there's an interesting approach of"pulling back" here that seems consonant with the neoliberal "flexibility"surrounding reproductive technologies...?

Another, related question relates to Richard's comments about biopolitics andthe modernist project of the rationalization of life. There's a new kind ofbiological "life" here that is neither natural nor artificial - even thelanguage seems less about top-down instrumentality but more about bottom-up"control," "perturbations," "coaxing" (Cathy can you confirm this?). If this is so, is this also the case in earlier examples of rethinking the concept of"population" in terms of the management of biological flows, fluctuations, andaverages?


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