Microbiopolitics: Security Mechanisms, the Hela Cell, and The Human Strain

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This paper examines the notion of the biopolitical body from the standpoint of Foucault’s logic of the security mechanism and the history he tells of vaccine technology. It then investigates how the increasing importance of the genetic code for determining the meaning and limits of the human in the field of 20th century cell biology has been a cause for ongoing transformation in the practices that currently extend vaccine research and development. I argue that these transformations mark the emergence of a new kind of medical subject – the stabilized and infinitely reproducible human cell line – and that the practices and markets exploiting this new form of organism have had a destabilizing effect on the very biopolitical structures that engendered them and, in fact, mark a new way of conceiving the possibilities of cellular life. I call these new ways of organizing power that intervene in the logic of the security measure by mediating the relationship between populations and persons the microbiopolitical.
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Archival date: 2016-07-07
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