Biogenetic Paradoxes of the Nation

Finncattle, Apples, and Other Genetic-Resource Puzzles

Book Pages: 272 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, using biodiversity components sustainably, 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 distinct 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

"This highly informative study should be widely read." — R. S. Kowalczyk, Choice

"The contribution of the book to critical discussions on the politics of life lies in highlighting the entangled relations between nation-building and biology, and the re-emergence of the nation as a crucial player in biopolitical battles. Furthermore, in a political climate where nations are increasingly interested in strengthening their borders – both physically and discursively – we will do well to remember Tamminen’s message about how new biotechnological relations and the related politics and institutions can expand territories and borders, but also redraw and reinforce existing ones."
  — Annika Lonkila, New Genetics and Society


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Price: $26.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

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.

Table of Contents Back to Top
List of Abbreviations  vii
Acknowledgments  ix
Introduction. The New Biopolitics of Nature and the Nature of (Mis)Stakes  1
1. Finncattle: Biowealth as National Life  38
2. Alexander and the (Re)Birth of Nation: Apple Trees' Genetic Fingerprinting and the Making of a Molecular Nationhood  84
3. Stilled Life: Animal Gene Banks and New Infrastructures of Life  127
4. Experimental Administration: Genetic Sovereignty and the Institutional (Bio)Politics of Nonhuman Nationhood  173
Conclusion. Biogenetic Paradoxes of the Nation  210
Notes  223
References  237
Index  259
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0306-9 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0195-9