From: Catherine Waldby
Date: Wed, 14 Mar 2007 16:04:15 +1100
Re Eugene's point about the labour of tissues
I agree thinking about the productivity of biological material as a from of labour is really useful ? effectively this is the source of productivity of the bioeconomic industries - their ability to tweak in vitro and in vivo living materials and turn their normal productivity into labour for biocapital as it were. At the same time I would want to link this labour to what I would call human in vivo labour. A lot more areas of biotech involve ongoing relationships to populations who give access to their in vivo biology as well as their ex vivo tissues - biobanking, where banks take blood samples but also monitor the lifetime health of their cohorts, clinical trails participants, increasingly drawn from third world populations where this is their main source of income, women who sell ova on a regular basis, to the reproductive industries and now to stem cell research. The last two of these are very onerous and involve significant risk and often pain. In each of these cases the labour performed by tissues requires a prior and ongoing labour performed by subjects. I think the biotech industries would like to escape this relationship and rely purely on in vitro life, but in many arenas they can?t.
I wonder if this neoliberalization also relates to anew type of labor - one different from the maternal body and the attendanttechnologies involved in reproductive biology. What "labor" is performed bycells, eggs, and embryos? It sounds a bit ridiculous, I know (no, I don't meanembryos as a form of child labor in Chaplin's factory...). But much of thescience 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...?