Biosociality, biocitizenship and the new regime of hope and despair: Interpreting "portraits of Hope" and the "mehmet Case"

  • Brekke O
  • Sirnes T
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The concepts of biocitizenship and biosociality, in many ways developed as a reaction to the former critique of genetification and fears of a return of eugenics, have gained a stronghold in much of the current debates on the social effects of modern-day genetics. In contrast to claims of a return to eugenics, the literature on biocitizenship highlights the new choice-enhancing possibilities involved in present-day biomedicine, underlining the break with past forms of biopower. In this analysis, hope becomes a life-inducing and vitalizing force, opening new avenues of civic participation and engagement. Most critics of this analysis have attacked the claims to novelty attributed to these concepts, arguing that more traditional forms of biopower remain as important as ever. In contrast, we argue that the biocitizenship literature underestimates the radical nature of this break with the past, ending up with a too narrow and one-sided interpretation of the ramifications of the new discourse of hope. On the basis of two different case stories, the “Portraits of Hope” campaign from California, USA and the “Mehmet Case” from Norway, we indicate an alternative “darker” reading of the new discourse of hope, arguing that its driving force is not so much future possibilities as present despair.

Author-supplied keywords

  • biopolitics
  • hope
  • somatic individuality

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  • Ole Andreas Brekke

  • Thorvald Sirnes

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