Date of Degree

5-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Ph.D.

Program

Sociology

Advisor

Patricia T. Clough

Subject Categories

American Studies | Philosophy of Science | Sociology

Keywords

biological diversity; cybernetics; food security; information; neoliberalism; the body

Abstract

Leveraging Capacity: Technical Solutions to Hunger in the Era of Neoliberalism takes the Global Seed Vault and the value of "global crop diversity" as a point of departure for raising questions about the influence of digital technology on the seed and about the solution to hunger known as "global food security." Discussions about food security among food studies scholars highlight either the failures of global public health advocates to regulate the food and beverage industry or they view food security, like earlier campaigns against global hunger, as an instrument for U.S. foreign policy. On either side of this debate, the body is made to fit the conclusions of these scholars in terms of the impact of economic or state-based forces on our global food supply. But these debates are complicated by the recent turn to seed vaults promising crop diversity in perpetuity, where "value" for crop diversity is mobilized by political organizations and industry alike.

Asking about the relationship of technology to the seed in this arrangement, I examine six discourses that have attended the turn to food security: nutrition, information, epigenetics, cybernetics, biotechnology, and biological diversity. In these discourses I chart instances where social problems begin to be defined as technical solutions in discourses on global hunger, discussions about scientific philanthropy, microbiology, and in discussions about biological diversity prospecting. While separately these discourses are inadequate to the task of understanding the turn to food security, when treated together however we can begin to see new articulations of relations of the body, the object, subjectivity, and institutionality as they are emerging in these discourses that should be considered a part of our contemporary neoliberal moment. Part of the reconfiguration of the body, I argue that we should view the turn to food security as a technical innovation and security for the "body-as-data."

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