cover of book

Deadly Biocultures: The Ethics of Life-making
by Nadine Ehlers and Shiloh Krupar
University of Minnesota Press, 2019
Cloth: 978-1-5179-0506-4 | Paper: 978-1-5179-0507-1
Library of Congress Classification BJ1409.5
Dewey Decimal Classification 179.7


A trenchant analysis of the dark side of regulatory life-making today

In their seemingly relentless pursuit of life, do contemporary U.S. “biocultures”—where biomedicine extends beyond the formal institutions of the clinic, hospital, and lab to everyday cultural practices—also engage in a deadly endeavor? Challenging us to question their implications, Deadly Biocultures shows that efforts to “make live” are accompanied by the twin operation of “let die”: they validate and enhance lives seen as economically viable, self-sustaining, productive, and oriented toward the future and optimism while reinforcing inequitable distributions of life based on race, class, gender, and dis/ability. Affirming life can obscure death, create deadly conditions, and even kill.

Deadly Biocultures examines the affirmation to hope, target, thrive, secure, and green in the respective biocultures of cancer, race-based health, fatness, aging, and the afterlife. Its chapters focus on specific practices, technologies, or techniques that ostensibly affirm life and suggest life’s inextricable links to capital but that also engender a politics of death and erasure. The authors ultimately ask: what alternative social forms and individual practices might be mapped onto or intersect with biomedicine for more equitable biofutures?

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