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Changing Life: Genomes, Ecologies, Bodies, Commodities

Peter J. Taylor
Saul E. Halfon
Paul N. Edwards
Volume: 13
Copyright Date: 1997
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Changing Life
    Book Description:

    Drawn from disciplines within science and technology studies and from geography, ecology, and developmental biology, the contributors offer a close look at how the mutable forms and concepts of life link the processes of science to those of information, finance, and commodities. Contributors: Simon Cole, Scott Gilbert, Herbert Gottweis, Yrjö Haila, Rosaleen Love, and Richard A. Schroeder.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8846-3
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Introduction: Changing Life in the New World Dis/Order
    (pp. 1-13)
    Paul N. Edwards, Peter J. Taylor and Saul E. Halfon

    In uneven and sometimes contradictory ways, new concepts of life and new life-forms—human, nonhuman, and artificial—are now implicated in the reshaping of social order and disorder. The changing cultural-political economy of life links the categories,² texts, test tubes, databases, and simulations of science to diverse processes: to the ever-expanding and ever more rapid circuits of information, finance, and commodities; to the declining regulatory state as it makes space for these ascendant transnational networks; and to capital’s extension of its legal domain over intellectual property, life-form patents, and marketable pollution licenses. Changes in life have also evoked both resistance...

  4. The Terminator Meets Commander Data: Cyborg Identity in the New World Order
    (pp. 14-35)
    Paul N. Edwards

    In 1985, Donna Haraway drew the attention of cultural studies and STS to the figure of the cyborg as a way of conceiving political identity in what she called “the world of the integrated circuit.”¹ Cyborgs are cybernetic organisms, assembled at the interface between technology and biology, both conceived as problems of information, coding, and control. They straddle the borders between fiction and fact, virtual and actual, machine and human and animal. Haraway argued that the cyborg might afford feminists (and others) a chance to reformulate problems of gender identity in terms that might evade capture within the pairings of...

  5. Bodies of Knowledge: Biology and the Intercultural University
    (pp. 36-55)
    Scott F. Gilbert

    In the academic debate about multiculturalism, the natural sciences are usually left out.¹ This is a gross error. Given the roles that science plays in our cultural life, its importance as a culturally informed artifact, and its role as an export product, our discussions of multiculturalism are superficial if we do not attend to the conditions that permit and direct scientific inquiry. This becomes all the more obvious in the case of biology, which has traditionally been central to our definitions of race, class, and gender and which structures our discussions of health and ecology. In this essay, I hope...

  6. Genetic Engineering, Discourses of Deficiency,and the New Politics of Population
    (pp. 56-84)
    Herbert Gottweis

    “Who is us?” asks Robert B. Reich, former political economy lecturer at Harvard and U.S. Secretary of Labor in the first Clinton administration, in a 1990 issue of theHarvard Business Review.¹ “Who is ‘us’? Is it IBM, Motorola, Whirlpool, and General Motors? Or is it Sony, Thomson, Philips, and Honda?”² And, after a discussion of the relationship between national interest and increasingly globally acting industry, Reich comes to the stunning conclusion: “The answer is, the American workforce, the American people, but not particularly the American corporation.”³

    Relieved that “we” are neither “Whirlpool” nor “Honda,” we can go on to...

  7. Contradictions along the Commodity Road to Environmental Stabilization: Foresting Gambian Gardens
    (pp. 85-101)
    Richard A. Schroeder

    Foresters, soil scientists, wildlife preservationists, and other would-be reclamation specialists, whose agenda it is to “reverse” processes of environmental degradation and return “nature” to a state of relative equilibrium, are confronted with a paradox.² It is often not enough to simply stop or avoid practices leading to degradation; restoring and preserving the integrity of “nature” involves subjecting it to human control.³ The trouble is that remedial efforts that involve human intervention such as reforestation and terracing tend to require significant investments of labor and are quite costly, while at best affording only deferred economic benefits.⁴ This expense inhibits the individual...

  8. Discipline or Solidarity? Ecology as Politics
    (pp. 102-120)
    Yrjö Haila

    One of the reactors in the nuclear power plant at Chernobyl, Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union), exploded in April 1986. The event has been characterized innumerable times as an “ecological catastrophe.” But what is the “ecology” that was catastrophically affected by the explosion?

    The answer is not immediately obvious. Since the accident, ecologists have worked in the area around Chernobyl tracing its consequences on natural ecological systems. Immediate visible damage was recorded to coniferous trees in an area of thirty square kilometers surrounding the reactor site, and some damage within a radius of thirty kilometers around the site....

  9. Overpopulating the World: Notes toward a Discursive Reading
    (pp. 121-148)
    Saul E. Halfon

    United States international population policy is billed as a solution to the “global population problem.” More accurately, it reflects concern with the problem ofoverpopulation, especially in the Third World. The “over” in “overpopulation” carries with it a sense of urgency, failure, and fear. It indicates that there are, or soon will be, too many people to achieve our ideal social world—our social imaginary. Such ideals, however, are always normative, and always political. What sort of world is this ideal? What are its parameters? Who is included and who is not? Who will ultimately benefit and who will...

  10. How Do We Know We Have Global Environmental Problems? Undifferentiated Science-Politics and Its Potential Reconstruction
    (pp. 149-174)
    Peter J. Taylor

    More than a generation ago, scientists detected radioactive strontium from atomic tests in reindeer meat and linked DDT to the nonviability of bird eggs.¹ Ever since then, if not earlier, science has had a central role in shaping what count as environmental problems. During the 1980s, environmental scientists and environmentalists called attention in particular to analyses of carbon dioxide concentrations in polar ice, measurements of upper atmospheric ozone depletion, remote sensing assessments of tropical deforestation, and, most notably, projections of future temperature and precipitation changes drawn from computation-intensive atmospheric circulation models. This coalition of environmental activism and “planetary science” stimulated...

  11. Do Androids Pulverize Tiger Bones to Use as Aphrodisiacs?
    (pp. 175-195)
    Simon A. Cole

    On Uncompahgre and Red Cloud Peaks in the San Juan Mountains of Colorado, the Uncompahgre fritillary butterfly is becoming extinct.¹ The Uncompahgre fritillary never should have been there in the first place. The climate was perfectly habitable ten thousand years ago during the Ice Age, but the butterfly failed to retreat with the glaciers and ended up trapped in the mountains, thousands of miles from its proper arctic climate. Facing several consecutive years of warm weather, the butterfly has steadily climbed the mountain in search of cooler climes. Now it has reached the top, and it can climb no more....

  12. Bubbles in the Cosmic Saucepan
    (pp. 196-202)
    Rosaleen Love

    I have heard that Europe will be vanquished in the next ten thousand years. It will not be the next world war or the bombs that will ultimately destroy London, Paris, and Rome but the ice that will spread southward from the North Pole and cover the land.¹ The sea level will fall, and Atlantis may rise from the waters, a possible place of refuge for the Swiss bankers and the army generals essential for the restoration of civilization once the ice retreats.

    I have also heard that the hole in the ozone layer above Tasmania is growing bigger, and...

  13. Afterword: Shifting Positions for Knowing and Intervening In the Cultural Politics of the Life Sciences
    (pp. 203-224)
    Peter J. Taylor

    This volume, with its contributors drawn from different disciplinary persuasions within science and technology studies (STS)² and from geography, ecology, and developmental biology, has provided a range of interpretative angles on the metaphors, narratives, models, and practices of life sciences.Changing Lifeshould help enlarge the community of participants in both cultural studies and STS and add to the emerging links between these two areas of scholarship.³ In principle, both directions of exchange between cultural studies and STS are open to exploration. This collection, however, favors the assimilation of the study of science and technology (S&T) into cultural studies. In...

  14. Contributors
    (pp. 225-226)
  15. Index
    (pp. 227-230)