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CSEC/Sociology Seminar Series: Nature and Capital, Part 4

Date: 23 March 2011 Time: 2.00-5.00 pm

Venue: Bowland North Seminar Room 20

CSEC/Sociology Nature and Capital Seminar series: Part 4

This seminar is part of a series of events on the topic of 'Nature and Capital'. The theme brings together those interested in ways in which the natural (biodiversity, biology, the body, carbon) is entangled in questions of capital and value. Invited speakers open each event followed by shorter presentations and a round table discussion. Speakers of the three events we have had so far include: Katja Neves-Graca (Concordia University, Montreal, Canada), Kristin Asdal (TIK, University of Oslo), Sian Sullivan (Birbeck College, University of London), John Urry (Lancaster University).

Our two invited speakers for this fourth event are Nik Brown from the University of York, and Adrian MacKenzie from Cesagen (Centre for the Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics) at Lancaster.

The afternoon (2.00-5.00 p.m.) will consist of two papers with short responses for each and time for questions and further 'round table' discussion on the contemporary inter-relationships of nature and capital.


Nik Brown is a Reader in Sociology at the University of York and Deputy Director of the Science and Technology Studies Unit (SATSU). His current research interests focus on culturally intriguing developments in the biosciences like cloning, transpecies transplantation, hybrids, chimeras, stem cells, and biobanking. He is interested in the social management of the boundaries between life and death, the human and the animal, the biologically mundane and the exotic, the public and the private. He is particularly interested in the politics, regulation and governance of novel biological developments and reproduction. He has also written extensively on the sociology of hope, expectations and futurity. Nik has published widely in journals related to Science and Technology Studies (STS), Sociology of Health and Illness and the Sociology of Risk, and has been involved in a wide range of research projects funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, the European Commission and other bodies.

Please see Nik's webpages for more information on his research:

Adrian MacKenzie is Reader in the Centre for the Economic and Social Aspects of Genomics (Cesagen) at Lancaster University. His research focuses on 'BioIT convergences' across biological engineering, DNA synthesis and sequencing, clinical and research databases and visualization technologies. His current work is focused both on changes in the work, productivity and situation of life scientists, and on the transformations in technique, knowledge and products associated with bio-IT related developments. His wider interests include the nature of promise, value, speculation and imagination in bioeconomies. He has published several books on theories and practices of technology in the sciences, popular culture and media: Transductions : bodies and machines at speed, London: Continuum, 2002/6; Cutting code: software and sociality . New York: Peter Lang, 2006, Wirelessness: Radical Empiricism in Network Cultures, MIT Press 2010, and edited Cinema and Technology, Palgrave 2008, as well as articles on media, science and culture. He is currently Co-Director of Centre for Science Studies, Lancaster University.

Please see Adrian's webpages for more information on his research:,1296,en.html


The two papers for the afternoon will be as follows:

Nik Brown: 'Immunitary bioeconomy: the economisation of life in the international cord blood market'

This paper examines an emerging bioeconomy centred on the international banking and trade in cord blood. Since the late 1980s cord blood has been used in an expanding range of treatments and as an alternative to the use of bone marrow stem cells. This is particularly the case in treating ethnic minority populations who have historically been under represented in bone marrow registries. The paper explores the mobilisation and commercialisation of an increasingly important bioeconomic resource with cord blood units trading internationally at high prices. This is a market mediated through a sophisticated global network of immunologically typed and matched bodily matter in which immunity has become a form of 'corporeal currency'. Theoretically, this case can be seen as an extension of what Roberto Esposito has termed an 'immunitary paradigm' in which immunity has become the basis for new forms of bioeconomic flow, circulation and exchange.

This paper will be followed by a response by Richard Tutton (Senior Lecturer, Cesagen)

Adrian MacKenzie: 'Hydrocarbons and Embodied Energy in Next Generation Biofuels'.

This paper will explore the new synthetic biology technologies aimed at producing energy and will look at how biofuels are lived.


Bothpapers will be followed by a round table discussion open to all on the intersections of nature and capital, and our attempts to characterise and critique these relations.




2.00 - 2.30 Nik Brown: 'Immunitary bioeconomy: the economisation of life in the international cord blood market'

2.30-2.45 Richard Tutton - Response

2.45 - 3.00 Open discussion

3.00-3.30 Adrian MacKenzie: 'Hydrocarbons and Embodied Energy in Next Generation Biofuels'.

3.30 - 3.45 Response

3.45 - 4.00 Tea

4.00 - 5.00 Open discussion on the two papers in relation to nature and capital


Who can attend: Anyone


Further information

Associated staff: Adrian Mackenzie, Claire Waterton

Organising departments and research centres: Centre for Science Studies, Centre for the Study of Environmental Change, Geography, Lancaster Environment Centre, Lancaster Environment Centre LEC, Sociology


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Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
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