Congratulations to Kalindi Vora on being awarded the 2018 Rachel Carson Prize from the Society for Social Studies of Science. Vora, Director of the UC Davis Feminist Research Institute and Associate Professor of Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies, was recognized for her book Life Support: Biocapital and the New History of Outsourced Labor (University of Minnesota Press, 2015).
From call centers, overseas domestic labor, and customer care to human organ selling, gestational surrogacy, and knowledge work, such as software programming, Life Support investigates how life itself is channeled across the globe from one population to another.
Vora explains that the project began while she was immersed in studying theories of how largely unseen labor produces the world, but was struck by news of the growing incidence of people selling their kidneys in India as fewer and fewer opportunities to sell their labor could be found. Life Support exposes how even seemingly inalienable aspects of human life such as care, love, and trust—and biological bodies and organs—are commodifiable entities as well as components essential to contemporary capitalism.
Vora describes how critical race and postcolonial studies can be brought together with feminist science and technology studies to help explain India’s contemporary role as a site of service and support labor in the global economy. More specifically, Vora says, “the book is about the vastness of the work of reproducing social worlds and social beings, and how so many people in India invest their life’s work into producing social lives and social worlds that exist completely apart from their own.”
The Rachel Carson Prize is awarded annually to a book in Science and Technology Studies with distinctive social and political relevance. Reviewers commented that Life Support stood out as providing new frameworks for informing theoretical, engineering, and advocacy work. The book was commended for “prompting new questions about geopolitical gender formations in (bio)capitalist enterprises, about unspoken reproductive processes that establish who creates and who executes in STEM education, about affective work and affective costs in technoscience, and about new potentials for solidarity and political kinship that might emerge in tandem with technological and economic changes.”
Kalindi Vora is also co-author of Surrogate Humanity, a forthcoming book on the racial and gendered politics informing contemporary robotics and artificial intelligence design with Neda Atanasoski (Duke University Press). Her current research includes ongoing writing on legal and social justice concerns connected to assisted reproductive technologies in transnational commercial surrogacy, on autoimmunity and patient self-tracking and self-treatment, and on establishing models for “feminist science shops” at US Universities.
Quotes adapted from http://www.4sonline.org/prizes/carson