The purpose of this chapter is to analyse bioprecarity in terms of two dimensions of Foucault’s biopolitics, categorization and subjectivization (Foucault, 1977, 1982, 2002, 2008). With examples of the precarious lives of trans people, especially those of colour, I engage with the conceptual arguments of Foucault, Judith Butler (1997, 2009) and Kimberlé Crenshaw (1991) regarding the relation between categorical framing and bioprecarity. The chapter explores how subjects as bodily selves are bound into population control and therefore normalized and regulated (Spade, 2011), how norms and regulations create bioprecarious situations for these bodily selves (Butler and Athanasiou, 2013), the role of intersectionality (Crenshaw, 1991) in creating such precarious positions and, finally, how such bioprecarity might be avoided (Lorey, 2010; Shotwell, 2016; Weheliye, 2014).
This chapter explores the use of assisted reproductive technology (ART) by queer and transgender people and how they have to perform particular bodily and intimate selves in the processes of seeking ART (Armuand et al., 2017; Mamo 2007, 2013). The bioprecarity of queer and transgender people is produced by the enactment of certain kinds of categorical framing (Foucault, 1977, 1990; Somerville, 1995) in the laws regulating ART. Prohibitive laws in some states are often circumvented by going abroad. This chapter therefore argues that queer and trans people’s bioprecarity also results from the intimate labour queer and transgender people have to undertake to overcome prohibitive laws and hetero- and cisnormative medical institutions as shown e.g. in studies about trans people’s experiences with ART (Armuand et al., 2017; James-Abra et al., 2015).
This volume is concerned with the ways in which bioprecarity, here understood as the vulnerabilization of people as embodied selves, is created through regulations and norms that encourage individuals to seek or provide bodily interventions of different kinds. We explore this in particular in relation to intimacy and intimate labour, such as in the making of families and kin and in various forms of care work. Advances in biotechnology, medical tourism and the visibilization of minoritized communities have resulted in unsettling the norms around the gendered body, intimate relations and intimate labour. Bodily interventions have sociocultural meanings and consequences both for those who seek such interventions and for those who provide the intimate labour in conducting them. The purpose of this volume is to explore these. This exploration involves sociocultural questions of boundary work, of privilege, of bodily ownership, of the multiple meanings of want (understood both as desire, for example the desire to have children or to change one’s bodily appearance; and as need – as in economic need – which often prompts people to undertake migration and/or intimate labour). It also raises questions about different kinds of vulnerabilities, for those who engage, and those who engage in, intimate labour. We use the term ‘bioprecarity’ to analyse those vulnerabilities.
The conclusion outlines how the different chapters in the volume have contributed to elucidating the concept of bioprecarity. This involves analysing the complex entanglements created by the relationship between the body, life, the production, maintenance and application of categories and intimate labour. These entanglements exist in a context of uneven distribution of power, which means that particular social groups and individuals are rendered more bioprecarious than others through their positioning as biosubjects. The volume shows that bioprecarity extends beyond contemporary, disenfranchised groups. It was also a key dimension of eugenicist histories, for example. At the same time, however, we also indicate that bioprecarity is sometimes co-produced by those who install it and those who seek to benefit from bodily interventions and intimate labour. This means that questions of biocitizenship need to be addressed more widely since biotechnologization will remain a fact of contemporary life.
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.