Biocapital and the New History of Outsourced Labor
Published by: University of Minnesota Press
192 pages, 140.00 x 216.00 x 25.00 mm
- ISBN: 9780816693962
- Published: April 2015
From call centers, overseas domestic labor, and customer care to human organ selling, gestational surrogacy, and knowledge work, such as software programming, life itself is channeled across the globe from one population to another.
In Life Support, Kalindi Vora demonstrates how biological bodies have become a new kind of global biocapital. Vora examines how forms of labor serve to support life in the United States at the expense of the lives of people in India. She exposes the ways in which even seemingly inalienable aspects of human life such as care, love, and trust—as well as biological bodies and organs—are not only commodifiable entities but also components essential to contemporary capitalism.
As with earlier modes of accumulation, this new global economy has come to rely on the reproduction of life for expansion. Human bodies and subjects are playing a role similar to that of land and natural resource dispossession in the period of capitalist growth during European territorial colonialism. Indeed, the rapid pace at which scientific knowledge of biology and genetics has accelerated has opened up the human body as an extended site for annexation, harvest, dispossession, and production.
Introduction. Life Support: India’s Production of Vital Energy
1. Limits of Labor: Affect and the Biological in Transnational Surrogacy and Service Work
2. Call Center Agents: Commodified Affect and the Biocapital of Care
3. Information Technology Professionals: Innovation and Uncertain Futures
4. Transnational Gestational Surrogacy: Expectation and Exchange
Epilogue: Imperial Pasts and Mortgaged Futures
"Life Support is an ethnographic study of the biopolitics of vital energy from the perspective of Indian call centers and surrogacy hospitals. Kalindi Vora argues that affective and reproductive labors produce more than economic value by helping to form new life and socialities. This book enlivens feminist theories on the ethics of female empathy and exchange in the outsourcing of care."—Aihwa Ong, coeditor of Asian Biotech and Worlding Cities
"The reader of this slim volume is likely to be astonished in that Vora’s book genuinely makes good on its title, delivering an original, dense, and entirely coherent theorization of biocapital."—Antipode
"[A]n engaging read."—CHOICE
"Vora’s analysis in terms of 'vital energy' is given particularly force because of her choice to set labor of a very literally embodied sort—the biological labor of pregnancy, 'commissioned' by intending parents from far away and compensated by a flat fee—alongside capital flows that are easier to mistake as simply financial and immaterial. Her comparison returns us sharply to the biological substance or embodied materiality of all labor."—Somatosphere
"An engaging and provocative read that makes a significant contribution to current debates on globalization and labor."—Pacific Affairs