Nature and the Transformation of Production,
Reproduction and Politics in the High-Tech Bioeconomy
BIOMATERIALITIES is a five-year research project focusing on the materialities of living nature and their economic valorization in the high-tech bioeconomy. The research group is composed of six doctoral and post-doctoral researchers who analyze how biophysical processes intersect with and are changing social relations pertaining to production, reproduction and politics. The research group will trace commodity networks guided by an analysis of political economy, political ecology, politics of care, feminist theory and critical geography.
The research group is based at the Department of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Food Policy, Albrecht Daniel Thaer-Institute, Faculty of Life Sciences at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. It is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) within the program „Bioeconomy as Societal Change“ (under FKZ 031B0750).
What is the Bioeconomy?
The bioeconomy is a political project based on the material transformation of living nature in order to facilitate new forms of economic valorization. The use of biological resources such as plants or microorganisms and the use of biotechnologies are important aspects of the various bioeconomy projects around the world. With its central narratives of sustainability and renewability and circularity, it claims to pursue a broad conversion of the economic production base away from fossil sources and towards bio-based materials and biological processes.
As the outlines of various bioeconomy sectors begin to take shape in countries such as Germany, their approach is largely characterized by the high-tech valorization of living nature with a strong focus on (bio)technological innovation in the life sciences and a convergence with several high technologies. The high-tech vision and approach to this transformation (rather than other possibilities such as local, low-tech use of biomass) leads us to qualify the bioeconomy as more precisely a high-tech bioeconomy.
The BioMaterialities research group contributes to critical social science research in this area by investigating the transformation of various societal relations in and through the high-tech bioeconomy. It does so from the particular perspective of inquiring into the productive base of the bioeonomy. From a social science perspective, the materiality of nature and the associated processes of valorization can be approached both empirically and theoretically, from inquiry into its underlying material assumptions such as the renewability and the availability of biomass, to analyzing how the reproduction of organisms is being inserted into high-tech production.
BioMaterialities will study the transformations in production, reproduction and its political regulation through the lens of various high technologies in order to shed light on its unfolding dynamics. These include its connection to other high-tech industries and technologies, the international division of labor in the production of goods, the hierarchies of knowledge that are thereby established, the discourses surrounding sustainability and renewability, and question of political regulation.
The project has three research goals:
- A conceptual analysis of the materiality of living nature and its transformation through high technologies as the basis for the bioeconomy
- The (comparative) analysis of production processes that incorporate bio-based materials and high technologies, including biotechnologies in various industries such as the food processing industry, agriculture or other industries with important interfaces between bio-based processes and digital technologies.
- The study of how bio-based commodities produced in the bioeconomy intersect with social relations and technologies a) related to the productive sphere, including labor and the valorization processes; b) related to the reproductive sphere, including consumption patterns,and new ideas of what is sustainable; c) related to constellations that are shaping and being shaped by institutional political relations such as laws and regulations, but also by social struggles and political conflicts.