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Chapter 6 - Living to Work

Biocapital, Synthetic Biology, and the Precaritization of Labor

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  16 September 2021

Sherryl Vint
Affiliation:
University of California, Riverside
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Summary

This chapter asks what happens as the commodification of life expands from biological tissues to the abstract concept of “life itself” now understood as a commodity. It draws on research on synthetic biology to analyze sf texts whose futures promise manufactured, nonhuman workers. Beginning with Philip K. Dick’s Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? this chapter considers how the globalized distribution of labour, and particularly a reliance on migrant labour that disavows civic belonging to such temporary workers, instantiates a dehumanizing precarity. Turning to the film adaptation of Dick’s novel, Blade Runner, and especially to its sequel, Blade Runner 2049, the chapter connects these imaginaries to discourses about synthetic biology that imagine life as a standard toolkit of reconfigurable metabolic functions. The chapter concludes with a reading of Rosa Montero’s Bruna Husky series, which directly references Blade Runner, a forceful critique of economic logics that reduce living beings to a means to economic ends. This series offers a posthumanist, multispecies vision of renewed political community as a remedy for the real subsumption of life by capital.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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  • Living to Work
  • Sherryl Vint, University of California, Riverside
  • Book: Biopolitical Futures in Twenty-First-Century Speculative Fiction
  • Online publication: 16 September 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108979382.007
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  • Living to Work
  • Sherryl Vint, University of California, Riverside
  • Book: Biopolitical Futures in Twenty-First-Century Speculative Fiction
  • Online publication: 16 September 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108979382.007
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Living to Work
  • Sherryl Vint, University of California, Riverside
  • Book: Biopolitical Futures in Twenty-First-Century Speculative Fiction
  • Online publication: 16 September 2021
  • Chapter DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/9781108979382.007
Available formats
×