Biogenetic Paradoxes of the Nation

Finncattle, Apples, and Other Genetic-Resource Puzzles

Biogenetic Paradoxes of the Nation

Experimental Futures

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Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: 21 illustrations Published: November 2019

Author: Sakari Tamminen

Anthropology, Science and Technology Studies, Sociology

In 1992, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), signed by over 160 countries and hailed as the key symbol of a common vision for saving Earth's biodiversity, set forth three primary mandates: preserving biodiversity, sustainable use of biodiversity components, and enabling economic benefit-sharing. The CBD—which gave signatory countries the ability to claim sovereignty over nonhuman genetic resources native to each nation—defined biodiversity through a politics of nationhood in ways that commodified genetic resources. In Biogenetic Paradoxes of the Nation Sakari Tamminen traces the ways in which the CBD's seemingly compatible yet ultimately paradox-ridden aims became manifest in efforts to create, conserve, and capitalize on distinctly animal and plant species. In using Finland as a case study with which to understand the worldwide efforts to convert species into manifestations of national identity, Tamminen shows how the CBD's policies contribute less to biodiversity conservation than to smoothing the way for frictionless operation of biotechnologically assisted circuits of the global bioeconomy. Tamminen demonstrates how an intimate look at the high-level politics and technical processes of defining national genetic resources powerfully illuminates the limits of anthropocentric biopolitical theory.


“How do animals and plants ground the making of national natures today, in the age of biotechnology, when we know those natures to be thoroughly social, technical, and economic? Sakari Tamminen's excellent ethnography examines what he arrestingly names as ‘nonhuman nationhood,’ using the case of Finland to show us how histories of animal breeding along with new genres of molecular manipulation are shaping fresh claims and contests over genetic sovereignty.” — Stefan Helmreich, author of Sounding the Limits of Life: Essays in the Anthropology of Biology and Beyond

“Sakari Tamminen offers a deft combination of field observation and theoretical analysis to persuasively problematize the whole notion of national genetic heritage. Outlining the tension between increasingly energetic claims about indigeneity, originality, and nativeness and the fact that all such claims inevitably rest on construction and wishful thinking, he uses his focus on Finland to illuminate issues of global relevance.” — Harriet Ritvo, author of Noble Cows and Hybrid Zebras: Essays on Animals and History


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Sakari Tamminen is Adjunct Professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Helsinki, coauthor of Recoding Life: Information and the Biopolitical, and coeditor of Bio-Objects: Life in the Twenty-First Century.

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Table of Contents Forthcoming
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Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0306-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0195-9
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