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  • Postgenomic IdentityArt and Biopolitics
  • Heather Dewey-Hagborg

This dissertation is a tour through a series of biopolitical sites where the production of power and knowledge of and about bodies is viewed through a molecular lens. Biopolitics, as described by Michel Foucault, combines the surveillance, normalization and classification of individuals, with a view of bodies as instances of a species and constituents of a population governed so as to encourage health and productivity as defined by the truth discourses of biology and public health.

Framing DNA as a mode of translation from and ascription to the body it is extracted from, the author examines the ways in which genetic data is used as a form of visibility to segment, categorize and ultimately mitigate social, economic and political uncertainty through the production of knowable populations. This dissertation is primarily concerned with subjectification in what has been termed the “postgenomic” era, the time since the sequencing of the human genome. The particular nexus the author aims to investigate, in her artistic and scholarly work, concerns surveillance, forensics, race and social justice in relation to human genomics today.

Along the way the author has interwoven a narrative describing her own artistic practice, which attempts to reveal and problematize the often obscure and naturalized knowledge production characterizing these sites.

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Heather Dewey-Hagborg, Stranger Visions, found genetic materials, custom software, 3D prints, documentation.

(© Heather Dewey-Hagborg)

The author designates the term “biopolitical art” to describe work utilizing techniques of public amateurism, critical engineering and speculative design to pose a subversive epistemic challenge to the biopolitical status quo.

Heather Dewey-Hagborg
<>. PhD diss., Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, U.S.A., 2016.


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p. 531
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