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Knowing the Future: Visions of the Bioeconomy and the Politics of Global Transformation

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This dissertation explores the contemporary politics of global transformation: the ways biological expertise and economic rationalities are positioned as agents of governance in the face of emerging global crisis. It examines visions for a new bioeconomy that are offered in

This dissertation explores the contemporary politics of global transformation: the ways biological expertise and economic rationalities are positioned as agents of governance in the face of emerging global crisis. It examines visions for a new bioeconomy that are offered in response to impending global crisis. Leaders point to calculations of global population growth and resource depletion to predict future crises and call for a new bioeconomy as a pillar of sustainable and “good” governance.

Focusing on visions and practices of bioeconomy-making in the U.S. and Brazil, the dissertation examines bioeconomy discourse as a response to global crisis and a framework of global governance that promises resource abundance and human wellbeing. Bioeconomy discourse makes visible shared notions of how the world is and how it should be that animate the world-making practices of bioeconomy. The dissertation analyzes the bioeconomy as simultaneously a product of existing institutional and nationally situated values and rationalities, and a significant site of performative novelty. It is an effort to reformulate existing projects in the biosciences—from technology regulation to market formation—and establish new rationalities of governance in the name of producing thoroughgoing transformations to both the global economy and to life itself.

Framing existing scientific and economic rationalities as suppressed and misdirected in their power to govern, bioeconomy proponents envision a novel order derivable from the proper conjugation of biological and economic rationalities. Through the lens of bioconstitutionalism, the dissertation elucidates how national, scientific and public rights and responsibilities are coproduced in relation to a sociotechnical imaginary of vital conjuring. Underwritten by the imaginary of vital conjuring, visions of a future transformed promise that abundance and order can be called up from a tangle of crisis and decay. The imaginary of vital conjuring marries a vision of the technological potential of biological life and the forms of economy capable of unlocking that potential. This vision of bioeconomy, the dissertation argues, is a vision of governance: of the right relationships between state, citizen and science.

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2020