This chapter elaborates the notion of bioprecarity as it is utilized in this volume by drawing on three theoretical concepts that have not been ‘thought together’ before. They are intimate labour, as discussed in Boris and Salazar Parreñas’ (2010) work; bios, as understood in Michel Foucault’s (2008) writings; and precarity, as originally developed in France in the 1970s, then taken up by Judith Butler (2004) in the context of war, terrorism, survival and ‘grievable’ lives and popularized in the relation to new forms of labour by Guy Standing (2011). The chapter develops these three concepts in the context of bodily interventions prompted by opportunities for bodily labour, meaning labour on and with the body, in order to investigate bioprecarity, a new form of vulnerability that is associated with providing and seeking intimate bodily labour in cross-cultural contexts.
Transgender patients in early Swedish medical research
This chapter examines the paradoxical interplay of humanist and eugenic ideology underlying early Swedish psychiatric and medical studies on transgender persons. The chapter conceptualizes trans patients in psychiatric institutions in the 1960s as persons who exchange their intimate labour in return for receiving medical care and legal recognition from the state. Drawing on unpublished archival material and published references to patient case files, the chapter argues that the interplay between the trans patients’ own agency and the normalizing power of medical research generated the scientific expert knowledge that functioned as the basis for the world’s first legislation on the legal status of ‘transsexuals’ and the first state-enforced sterilization legislation of transgender persons in 1972. Drawing on Foucault, the chapter contends that in this context, normalizing power over the temporality of the subject operates both at the level of the body and the population. Yet, historical trans patients are not merely passive subjects of power/knowledge. Instead, the chapter emphasizes that the complex intimate labour of transgender patients can be regarded as a form of resistance and counter-power to normalizing biopower.
The introduction introduces the core themes of the book. The categories that form the springboard for the analysis are aliens, subjects, citizens, migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, European Union citizens, and third country nationals. Although the book takes them in turn, the book is offered holistically. In order to meaningfully understand the content and effects of one category, each must be considered in terms of its relationship to the others.
The introduction outlines the meaning and rise of bioprecarity and the bioprecariat, here understood as those who seek help with bodily interventions and those who provide such interventions. It discusses core concepts of importance for this volume, including shifting understandings and regulations of the body and bodily interventions, questions of bodily ownership and of agency in the age of the commodification of the body and the issue of power and unequal relations in the seeking and providing of help around bodily interventions. It also provides an overarching introduction to the chapters presented in this volume.
Myth, memory and emotional adaption: the Irish in post-war England and the ‘composure’ of migrant subjectivities
This chapter develops two critical arguments, namely that existing approaches to Irish migrant identity within the historiography have failed to capture the complexity of Irish subjectivities in England; and that, where it has been employed as a record of migrant experience, oral historical research has been complicit in this failure, due largely to the ‘recovery’ approach which scholars have typically employed to reconstruct the Irish migrant experience in the twentieth century. To address these limitations, the chapter outlines an alternative approach based on Popular Memory Theory, the core framework employed in the book, before giving an account of the book’s core themes, dynamics, contents and approach to sources.
The introduction begins by positioning the volume in relation to current debates and developments in a number of related fields: religious history, biblical studies, postcolonialism, literary studies, imperial history and histories of scholarship and the book. Making a claim for the centrality of biblical narratives to the shaping of modern notions of race, nation and empire in the nineteenth century, the introduction discusses some of the reasons why this aspect has been downplayed in accounts of ‘scientific racism’ on one hand and the emergence of European empires on the other. Introducing the two interlinked sections of the book, we stress the importance of biblical ideas of exile, peoples and ‘lands’ to notions of identity and belonging in a variety of nineteenth-century contexts. Furthermore, we explore the explosion of textual transmission and translation in the period, which allowed these tropes and themes to be transmitted across global networks of transport, power and print.
The Introduction examines discourses which have influenced the research and provided the foundation of the study’s approach to fieldwork methodology and narrational style, thus offering an alternative to the conventional academic precedent in anthropology and Sinology of a denial of emic ontologies. Notable influences cited include Peter van der Veer’s ‘historical sociology’, Dennis Tedlock and Bruce Mannheim’s dialogic position on writing culture and recent theories emerging from the ontological turn concerning ethnographic research into non-human worlds. The latter include complementary theories from Philippe Descola, Martin Paleček and Mark Risjord, Morten Axel Pedersen and Michael W. Scott which have inspired the adoption of an underlying ontological approach relevant to the research of non-physical phenomena including, but not exclusive to, Chinese spirit mediumship and trance possession states, both of which are central to the Underworld tradition. The intention of evaluating practitioners’ contrasting understandings of religious phenomena to produce a new lexicon of descriptive phrases which encapsulates the essence of emic explanations while framing the metaphysical in religious and spiritual traditions in academic terms is then clarified. The Introduction concludes with details of when and where fieldwork was conducted.
Much research on in vitro fertilization (IVF), assisted reproduction and gamete donation has centred on their medical, legal and sociocultural processes and meanings. Here, quite frequently, little attention is paid to the donors themselves other than in the context of their selection. However, donation is a corporeal process in which body parts are produced and given or sold. This chapter analyses the bioprecarities that derive from the process of sperm donation. It draws on empirical online and social media materials, as well as other texts, in which men who donate sperm for the purposes of assisted reproduction articulate their sense of the meaning of this process and considers responses to the revelation of sperm donation from people both known and unknown to the donor. These responses show how sperm donation as a form of intimate labour in which a man also parts with somatic material produced by his body, and involving negotiated journeys, is managed and talked about. In the chapter I argue that responses to sperm donation indicate deeply gendered views of reproductive intimate labour in which a sense of bioprecarity masks strongly gendered views of sexuality, intimacy and reproduction.
Medieval and early modern historiography had encouraged the integration of biblical and Gaelic chronologies, and throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries Irish antiquarians, poets and romantic nationalists began to think of themselves as ‘Milesians’, the displaced descendants of a wandering Phoenician tribe. This chapter focuses on the British Israelites, a loose Protestant sect united by their belief that the Anglo-Saxon race was descended from the Lost Tribes of Israel and that biblical prophecies on the future of ‘Israel’ referred to the British Empire. The British Israelites argued that the ancient Irish king, Ollamh Fodhla, was actually the Hebrew prophet Jeremiah. This myth-history was deployed in support of the British-Israel claim that the Anglo-Saxons were the true heirs to the biblical Kingdom of David. Yet despite their fascination with the mysteries of pre-Christian Ireland, most British Israelites were arch-imperialists, staunch anti-Catholics and opponents of Irish Home Rule. The chapter explores shifting notions of British and Irish racial identity in relation to scriptural genealogy, and argues that Old Testament narratives were co-opted to serve conflicting political and religious agendas.
What role does memory play in migrants’ adaption to the emotional challenges of migration? How are migrant selfhoods remade in relation to changing cultural myths? This book, the first to apply Popular Memory Theory to the Irish diaspora, opens new lines of critical enquiry within scholarship on the Irish in modern Britain. Combining innovative use of migrant life histories with cultural representations of the post-war Irish experience, it interrogates the interaction between lived experience, personal memory and cultural myth to further understanding of the work of memory in the production of migrant subjectivities. Based on richly contextualised case studies addressing experiences of emigration, urban life, work, religion and the Troubles in England, chapters illuminate the complex and contingent relationship between politics, culture and migrant identities, developing a dynamic view of the lived experience of British–Irish relations after 1945. Where memory is often regarded as a mechanism of antagonism within this relationship, Life History shows how migrants’ ‘recompose’ memories of migration as part of ongoing efforts to adapt to the transition between cultures and places. As well as shedding new light on the collective fantasies of post-war migrants and the circumstances which formed them, Life History thus illustrates the cultural and personal dynamics of subjective change over time: migrants located themselves as the subjects of a diverse and historically evolving repertoire of narratives, signalling adaption, difference and integration as co-articulating features of the Irish experience in post-1945 England.