Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Commodification of the Body

As much as I maintained a strong stance to not write a blog entry based on the Sharp article, I couldn’t help but continually return to it as I contemplated the topics to be covered for this week’s class. So, rather than resisting it, I’ve decided to succumb to the pure micro level of commodification of the body.

But, what about it kept drawing me in? The primary reason was mostly due to the fact that I found many parts (no pun intended) rather disturbing. It’s more easily understood for me to consider the micro-level of persons as it relates to perception of the surrounding environment, and associated beliefs and values. Along with that, the discussion can incorporate the power of influence and hegemonic forces that purposefully align beliefs and values in a way that supports the dominant structure. However, when you deliberately begin to drill down even further and segment the human body in a way that supports a Marxian view of production and value, it becomes quite disturbing… and even more complex. Especially when one considers genetics, questions like, “…can anyone ‘own’ the human genome… or is [it] property of humankind?” should be mute points in my opinion? Frankly, creating a commodity out of man’s genetic structure is a bit more than I’m comfortably able to wrap my brain around. But, of course, we are forced to look at it for what it is because, when blood samples from indigenous peoples are drawn simply to provide science an opportunity to later cure diseases for the developed world, there has to be some form of checks and balances. This, as she alludes to often, is a prime example of technocracy in action. Very interesting… and, of course, disturbing.

To look at the commodification process for what it is and, through an anthropological lens, offer a base of understanding that the scientific worldview can broadly accept, there is an opportunity to more appropriately address the variety of issues brought up in this article. However, with that being said, this article provided me a central frustration for me. Sharp obviously provides an extensive literature review, supporting all of her primary points. However, I often found myself confronted with what I assumed was a metaphor to illustrate a point (i.e., “body atlases” on pg. 297), and I was still left uncertain at to what this meant. To me, this still left a bit of mystery to the notion of commodification that I wanted to figure out.

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