History of Biotechnology
Humans excel at using other organisms, including other humans, as means to ends. From the beginnings of agriculture, our species has cultivated crops, livestock, and microbial fermenters as living technologies of production. In modern industrial economies, human uses of life have undergone radical changes, as have the values humans assigned different forms of life. Agriculture underwent rationalization and intensification, increasing yields many times over. Scaled-up fermentation techniques served to preserve food, manufacture drugs, and process wastes. In vitro fertilization and somatic cell nuclear transfer permitted dramatic interventions in sexual reproduction. This course will explore these and other histories of biotechnology across different temporal, geographic, and cultural contexts, paying special attention to the ambivalent relationships that arose between user and used in such instrumentalizations of life.
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