EXCELPROJECT: The Beginning
The technological capacity to transform biology, relying on advances in genetic engineering, pharmacology, bioengineering, cybernetics, and nanotechnology, has spurred a variety of devices to manipulate bodily forms and human functions that are commonly defined non-therapeutical “enhancement technologies”. Under this definition are included cosmetic biotechnologies as diverse as aesthetic plastic surgery, skin bleaching treatments, smart and life-style drugs, hormonal therapies and biohacking implants - that aim to ameliorate human characteristics, including physical appearance and cognitive performance. Prompted by economic analyses on the increase in cosmetic consumption of biotechnologies in Portugal during the global financial crisis, and spurred by empirical and bioethical studies on the risks, the limits and foresights of body manipulation, this research project aims to critically analyse enhancement technologies within their shifting economic and socio-historical contexts. The project EXCEL tackles enhancement technologies as bio-investment practices to promote personal competitiveness according to a logic of excellence, reading bodily and cognitive alterations as processes of self-making. Focusing on the Greater Lisbon area and noting the national and transnational circuits that affect this context, we aim to add to existing statistical and bioethical analyses qualitative, ethnographic data to unfold the complexity of these practices, by examining the relationship between subjectivity, body management and citizenship. The aim is to bridge the micro-dynamics of specific forms of bio-investment - exploring practices of and aspirations for biomedical self-making - with the genesis of new markets and transnational circuits of cosmetic medical tourism.
Keywords: Biotechnologies, Human enhancement, Body capital, Medical Tourism