Kara W. SwansonBanking on the Body: The Market in Blood, Milk, and Sperm in Modern America

Harvard University Press, 2014

by Carla Nappi on October 20, 2014

Kara W. Swanson

View on Amazon

[Cross-posted from New Books in Science, Technology, and Society] How did we come to think of spaces for the storage and circulation of body parts as “banks,” and what are the consequences of that history for the way we think about human bodies as property today? Kara W. Swanson’s wonderful new book traces the history of body banks in America from the nineteenth century to today, focusing especially on milk, blood, and sperm. Banking on the Body: The Market in Blood, Milk, and Sperm in Modern America (Harvard University Press, 2014) takes readers into early twentieth-century America, when doctors first turned to human bodies and their parts as sources of material to help cure their most desperate cases. As these doctors developed an expertise in harvesting body products and sought reliable and cooperative supplies thereof, human milk and blood were first transformed into commodities. Swanson’s story introduces some of the most crucial actors in this history, including wet nurses, professional blood donors, Red Cross volunteer “Grey Ladies,” doctors, blood bank managers, mothers who ran milk banks, sperm donors, and many, many others. The story is deeply satisfying on many levels: as a window into particular human lives, as a conceptual history with material consequences, and as a set of case studies that illuminates and informs today’s legal and medical landscapes. This is a book that should be on the shelves and in the hands of anyone interested in legal history, medical history, modern notions of “property,” and the ways that the past had shaped what happens to our bodies in the present and what might happen to them in the future.

{ Comments on this entry are closed }

Matthew HuberLifeblood: Oil, Freedom, and the Forces of Capital

October 17, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Geography]  Lifeblood: Oil, Freedom, and the Forces of Capital (University of Minnesota Press, 2013) is an incisive look into how oil permeates our lives and helped shape American politics during the twentieth century. Author Matthew Huber shows the crucial role oil and housing policy played in the New Deal and how, in subsequent decades, government [...]

Read the full article →

Jonathan SwartsConstructing Neoliberalism: Economic Transformation in Anglo-American Democracies

September 22, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Journalism]  The new book, Constructing Neoliberalism: Economic Transformation in Anglo-American Democracies (University of Toronto Press, 2013) shows how political elites in Britain, New Zealand, Australia and Canada successfully introduced radically new economic policies in the 1980s. While opinion polls have consistently showed that neoliberal policies are not popular, governments in all four countries have [...]

Read the full article →

Edward E. BaptistThe Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism

September 8, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in American Studies] An unflinching examination of the trauma, violence, opportunism, and vision that combined to create the empire for slavery that was the Old South, Ed Baptist‘s new book The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism (Basic Books, 2014) challenges popular conceptions of that region that imagine it as [...]

Read the full article →

Tim AndersonPopular Music in a Digital Music Economy: Problems and Practices for an Emerging Service Industry

August 23, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Popular Music] Since the 1990s, the music industry has been going through a massive transformation. After World War II, the primary way audiences participated in the music business in the period between 1945 and 1990 was by purchasing records and attending concerts. The internet and the mp3 file, however, have changed how [...]

Read the full article →

John Nathan AndersonRadio’s Digital Dilemma: Broadcasting in the 21st Century

June 20, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Media and Communications] John Nathan Anderson’s new book, Radio’s Digital Dilemma: Broadcasting in the 21st Century (Routledge, 2014), documents the somewhat tortured path of broadcast radio’s digital transition in the United States.  Beginning his analysis with rise of neoliberal communications policy in the 1980s, Anderson charts the development of the idea of digitalization by closely [...]

Read the full article →

Vili Lehdonvirta and Edward CastronovaVirtual Economies: Design and Analysis

June 19, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Book in Technology] The continued growth of online gaming and virtual worlds has effects not only in the analog world, with games and social media organizations taking stock options public, but also in the worlds created online. Many games and platforms allow users to involve themselves in virtual labor, to own property, and most [...]

Read the full article →

James W. RussellSocial Insecurity: 401(k)s and the Retirement Crisis

May 20, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Sociology] Jim Russell is a sociologist and it was his encounter with the hidden realities of his own 401(k) retirement plan that touched off his crusade to demystify for himself, and then others, just what was at stake in the options presented by private and public retirement plans. In Social Insecurity: 401(k)s and [...]

Read the full article →

Brett ScottThe Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance: Hacking the Future of Money

May 19, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Political Science] Brett Scott is the author of The Heretic’s Guide to Global Finance: Hacking the Future of Money (Pluto Press, 2013). Scott is a journalist, urban deep ecologist, and Fellow at the Finance Innovation Lab. While much of Scott’s book focuses on explaining various aspects of the financial services section, the heart of the book [...]

Read the full article →

Benjamin RadcliffThe Political Economy of Human Happiness: How Voters’ Choices Determine the Quality of Life

May 1, 2014

[Cross-posted from New Books in Big Ideas] Americans are very politically divided. Democrats say we need a more powerful welfare state while Republicans say we need to maintain the free market. The struggle, we are constantly informed, is one of ideas. And that it is in the worst possible sense, for neither the Democrats nor Republicans [...]

Read the full article →