The biopolitics of donation: gender, labour and motherhood in the tissue economy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter in a book


This chapter analyses the making of biopolitical subjects of donation in the bioscience and biotechnology economy. Feminist scholars have demonstrated how the growth of the “bioeconomy” of the life sciences depends on bodily contributions of tissues and on access to the body’s life processes of growth and development, and have articulated the necessity to theorise forms of bodily participation in the bioeconomy – as donors, experimental subjects, and surrogates – as a form of labour. Drawing connections between these relatively novel forms of “embodied labour” and other historical forms of reproductive or sexualised work performed by women opens up conceptual avenues obscured by the emphasis on liberal claims to a right of “property in the body”. This essay considers the donation of human tissues derived from pregnancy in particular to underscore how transformations to embodied labour are central of the growth of the bioeconomy and the institutions geared towards gaining access to the life processes of human bodies. Population-based biopolitics remains a relevant consideration in the bioeconomies of donation, but the extension of practices of “intensive mothering” to the donation field also involves governmental efforts to shape maternal conduct.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationBiopolitical Governance
Subtitle of host publicationRace, Gender and Economy
EditorsHannah Richter
Place of PublicationLondon
PublisherRowman & Littlefield
ISBN (Print)9781786602701
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Publication series

NameGlobal Political Economies of Gender and Sexuality
PublisherRowman & Littlefield

Structured keywords

  • Gender Research Group


  • biopolitics
  • motherhood
  • donation
  • gender


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