The proliferation of for-profit enterprises offering stem cell storage services for personal use illustrates one of the ways health is increasingly governed through uncertainty and speculative notions of risk. Without any firm guarantee of therapeutic utility, commercial stem cell banks offer to store a range of bodily tissues, signaling the further transformation of the living body into an accumulation strategy within biotechnology capitalism’s ‘tissue economies.’ This essay makes two related claims: first, it suggests that specifically gendered forms of identification with the leading edge of the bioeconomy are embedded in the speculative practices of commercial stem cell banking and are particularly visible in the recent creation of a banking service for endometrial tissue. Second, the essay offers a novel analytic through which to explore the commercial banking of one’s own bodily tissues through Marx’s discussion of money hoarding. Identified by early political economists as the precursor to rational practices of credit, hoarding is more aptly theorised as the drive proper to all forms of capitalist exchange. The aim of the essay is to further the conceptual claims linking emergent forms of economic and biomedical subjectivity to transformations in biotechnology capital. An alternative genealogy of the desire to ‘bank’ one’s own stem cells could identify the figure of the miser, rather than the calculative, risk-aware rational capitalist, as the agent of commercial stem cell banking’s particular form of economy. For the miser’s desire in an economy of hoarding is not for material wealth or tangible objects but for the open-ended possibility of standing in the place of the general equivalent: the place from which anything can be exchanged for anything else.
- Gender Research Group