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Biomedicine in museums

How new are 'bio-objects' actually?

By December 3, 0001No Comments

‘Bio-objects’ is one these new buzz-words in science and technology studies (see e.g. here). And as usual Workshop of COST Action IS1001: Bio-objects and their Boundaries: Governing Matters at the Intersection of Society, Politics and Science

Bio-objects and value creation: towards new economies of life

November 28, 2012, 9.30-18.30
Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales, Madrid (Spain)

With contributions from Andrew Webster, Simone Bateman, Ine van Hoyweghen, Turo-Kimmo Lehtonen, Isabelle Dussauge, Kean Birch and Klaus Hoeyer

Workshop Website

In recent years, remarkable advances in life sciences, especially in the field of biomedicine, biotechnology and synthetic biology, have helped to bring into being a range of new biological objects (or what we can call bio-objects), such as genetically modified organisms and embryonic stem cell lines, and the creation of new life structures through “synthetic biology”. These “bio-objects” are full of promise and hope for innovations in the life sciences, in fields such as agriculture, medicine and food. These promises and hopes, however, do not proceed merely from the expectations of new therapeutic breakthrough or of new sources of renewable energy; they also spring from the potential of these bio-objects to create new economic value. The European Knowledge-Based Bio-Economy (KBBE), for instance, has been giving increasing priority to the emergence of new economies around biotechnologies and their related bio-objects. The OECD, in turn, suggests that the future of economic development lies in the bioeconomy, that is, in the “aggregate set of economic operations in a society that use the latent value incumbent in biological products and processes to capture new growth and welfare benefits for citizens and nations” (OECD 2009). Not only these technologies, and their related bio-objects, promise to foster economic growth and boost competitiveness, they also successfully address the main challenges currently affecting our planet, such as energy consumption, environmental contamination, as well as the ageing and the nutritional needs of a growing world population. In this vision, bio-objects can be understood as biological elements that become commodified for the market forces to incorporate them into economic relations and value chains with a view of producing value and benefits. In other words, we seem to be facing the emergence of “new economies of life”. Concepts like biovalue, life surplus or biocapital, have been recently elaborated to explore and discuss these economies and their organizing principles. Whilst diverging in significant ways, these concepts converge on one issue: the process of value creation generated by practices of bio-objectification, increasingly incorporating biological resources and organisms into the capitalist system of production and trade.

In this public meeting, we have recruited some key experts to help begin our discussion not only on the process of value creation that is generated by, and generative of, new bio-objects, but also on the role played by diverse practices of bio-objectification in the constitution of new economies of life.

Key issues for consideration include:

• How are biological materials turned into bio-objects and with what implications? What are the main characteristics of the bio-objectification process?
• How does bio-objectification relate to commodification and value creation? How does the process of value creation affect the generation and exchange of bio-objects?
• Are we facing the emergence of new economies of life?
• In case we do, what are the main features of these new economies of life? In which way do they differ from more traditional economies based on different sets of technologies and objects?
• Are new models and methodologies needed to explore and understand, the economic value of bio-economies that go beyond the conventional approaches used in, for example, health economics?
• Do these new economies have geographies?


The workshop takes place in the “Salón de Actos” of the “Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales” in Madrid (Calle de Albasanz, 26, 28037 Madrid)


We welcome participants at this workshop. There are no registration fees, yet please register by November 4, 2012, following this link.

Thomas Söderqvist

Author Thomas Söderqvist

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