Accepted paper:

Biological citizenship and death in Mexico


Ernesto Schwartz-Marin (Exeter University)

Paper short abstract:

New modes of citizenship are emerging in spaces riddled by lack of rule of law and extreme violence that bring new engagements with techno-science and new of rights and duties towards the dead and the disappeared, made possible through the strategic mobilization of the biology of the living.

Paper long abstract:

Beneath the tides of dead bodies piling in morgues, mass media, cemeteries and clandestine graves in Mexico, a new mode of citizenship is taking place. New subjectivities and citizens are being born amidst violence, grief and lack of punishment. Mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers who were previously exclusively dedicated to office jobs, study, commerce and rural activities are now the heads of intensive care units, experimental forensic research units, and heads of community police. This paper brings forth the first ethnographic encounters with the experiences of these new citizens and resilient subjects, who are striving to make their 'Right to the Truth' a reality. By locating these experiences in the wider literature of biopolitics, citizenship and the biosciences I aim to bring forth to the radical differences and novel avenues that the Mexican experience can bring to the discussion about the relationships between science and human rights. For more than a decade the corpus of literature on biological citizenship has been overly centred in the exploration of Europe and the US, mostly drawing on biomedicine and patient groups case studies. By looking at death as the axis of analysis we are opening a new terrain of theoretical and ethnographic exploration in which the duties to the (presumably) dead and the bodies of the living are irremediably entangled (many times in the form of DNA), and thus produce modes of existence and economies of hope in need of theoretical and empirical exploration.

panel P11
Death and technology