Nature and transformations of production, reproduction and politics in the high-tech bioeconomy
The bioeconomy is a political project that aims to transform the economic system from fossil sources to biological resources such as plants or microorganisms and to expand biobased products and materials and the use of biotechnology. Sustainability and renewability are central narratives in this transformation. The orientation of bioeconomic sectors that is developing in many industrialized countries such as Germany reveals a high-tech valorization of living nature. This includes a strong focus on (bio)technological innovations in the life sciences and their convergence with digital technologies. This high-tech vision of a transformation (as opposed to other possibilities such as local, low-tech use of biomass) by central actors and institutions suggests that the bioeconomy should be specified as a high-tech bioeconomy.
Materiality of Nature
The BioMaterialities project contributes to critical social science research of these developments. It deals with the materiality of living nature and its economic valorization in the high-tech bioeconomy. It analyzes how different social relations are changing in the high-tech bioeconomy. One focus is on dealing with the material properties of living nature as the productive basis of the bioeconomy. In social science, the materiality of nature can be analyzed empirically and theoretically, from examining underlying assumptions such as renewability and biomass availability to analyzing how the reproduction of organisms fits into economic production in space and time.
High Technologies and Societal Implications
Another focus is the analysis of developments in the context of digitalization and other converging technologies in the bioeconomy and their social implications. BioMaterialities investigates transformation processes in production, reproduction and political regulation. These include above all reproduction technologies in the context of nature and biodiversity, digital technologies in agricultural production, conflicts and inequalities in rural areas or forestry and processes of political regulation of new technologies in these fields. In addition to these two focal points, the following dimensions form cross-cutting issues that link the various analyses: sustainability, e.g., in relation to work or as an ideology; participation, e.g., through social movements and struggles for alternatives; and inequalities, e.g., between capital and labour, in access to technologies, resources or other socio-ecological inequalities. Using various international case studies in Germany, Canada, Mexico and South Africa, exemplary processes are analyzed that are characteristic of the high-tech bioeconomy or informative for its development dynamics. Theoretically, approaches from political economy, political ecology, feminist theory and critical geography are referred to. The research group is based at the Albrecht Daniel Thaer Institute in the Department of Agricultural and Food Policy at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin. It is funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) as part of the program for funding junior research groups “Bioeconomy as Social Change” (funding reference: FKZ 031B0750).