Biocapital : The Constitution of Post-genomic Life


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Biocapital is a major theoretical contribution to science studies and political economy. Grounding his analysis in a multi-sited ethnography of genomic research and drug development marketplaces in the United States and India, Kaushik Sunder Rajan argues that contemporary biotechnologies such as genomics can only be understood in relation to the economic markets within which they emerge. Sunder Rajan conducted fieldwork in biotechnology labs and in small start-up companies in the United States (mostly in the San Francisco Bay Area) and India (mainly in New Delhi, Hyderabad, and Bombay) over a five-year period from 1999 through 2004. He draws on his research with scientists, entrepreneurs, venture capitalists, and policymakers to compare drug development in the two countries, examining the practices and goals of research, the financing mechanisms, the relevant government regulations, and the hype and marketing surrounding promising new technologies. In the process, he illuminates the global flow of ideas, information, capital, and people connected to biotech initiatives. Sunder Rajan's ethnography informs his theoretically sophisticated inquiry into how the contemporary world is shaped by the marriage of biotechnology and market forces, by what he calls techno-scientific capitalism. Bringing Marxian theories of value into conversation with Foucaultian notions of biopolitics, he traces how the life sciences came to be significant producers of both economic and epistemic value in the late twentieth century and early twenty-first.

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  • Paperback | 360 pages
  • 142 x 216 x 28mm | 480.82g
  • 30 May 2006
  • Duke University Press
  • North Carolina
  • English
  • Annotated
  • annotated edition
  • 0822337207
  • 9780822337201
  • 224,766

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Author Information

Kaushik Sunder Rajan is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine.Kaushik Sunder Rajan is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Chicago. He is the author of BIOCAPITAL: THE CONSTITUTION OF POSTGENOMIC LIFE (2006).

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Review quote

"Reading Kaushik Sunder Rajan's Biocapital fills me with the same intellectual and personal excitement I felt reading Marx's Capital and Foucault's History of Sexuality for the first time. Biocapital gives a passionate, thoroughly argued road map to dense and consequential worlds that I already inhabit, but have not known how to describe with the vividness and acumen required. Sunder Rajan integrates and explores in depth what many others only promise; i.e., the coproductions of meanings, values, and bodies in emerging regimes of biocapital. In the course of shaping ethnographic and theoretical inquiry into what he calls 'lively capital,' Sunder Rajan gives his readers lively value in every sense."--Donna Haraway, author of Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium.FemaleMan_Meets_OncoMouse' "Biocapital is an ambitious book; its conceptual scope has the potential to remake conversation in the human sciences. There is really nothing like the argument and synthesis Kaushik Sunder Rajan provides, which is surprising given how important his topic is."--Lawrence Cohen, author of No Aging in India: Alzheimer's, the Bad Family, and Other Modern Things "Biocapital is excellent. It offers new insight into both late capitalism and the life sciences and also provides material and arguments for rethinking foundational concepts such as 'valuation' and 'exchange.'"--Kim Fortun, author of Advocacy after Bhopal: Environmentalism, Disaster, New Global Orders "This ambitious work is multi-sited, drawing from ethnographic work in the United States and in India as well as from within various organizations involved in the genomic is an interesting book where terms are carefully defined and the approaches and theoretical perspectives are laid bare. It would be a great book for an advanced course in medical anthropology or technology studies." Cameron Adams, University of Kent

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Back cover copy

""Biocapital" is excellent. It offers new insight into both late capitalism and the life sciences and also provides material and arguments for rethinking foundational concepts such as 'valuation' and 'exchange.'"--Kim Fortun, author of "Advocacy after Bhopal: Environmentalism, Disaster, New Global Orders"

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