Publication Details

Ehlers, N. and Krupar, S. (2014). Hope logics: biomedicine, affective conventions of cancer, and the governing of biocitizenry. Configurations: a journal of literature, science and technology, 22 (3), 385-413.


This essay explores the deployment of hope within biomedicine. Drawing on Michel Foucault’s account of biopolitics, it argues that hope works in the service of biopolitical imperatives to govern life, and to secure, optimize, and speculate on that life. The essay broadly considers the operations of affect in biomedicine, and specifically examines the governing function of affective conventions of hope—that is, the perceptual, emotional, and corporeal modes of managing and responding to events that support biomedicine’s telos toward the affirmation of life. In relation to illness, hope conditions responses to bodily vulnerability and uncertainty, manages the present for the future, and relentlessly affirms life. The essay grounds these claims in an investigation of cancer activism and treatment, wherein hope is a weapon to fight cancer, as the target of war. Documenting the ways that hope is increasingly militarized, commodified, routinized, and delimited in the neoliberal era, the essay explores how such conventions of hope are actively made and maintained through aspects of cancer-related biomedical encounters—in what it calls infrastructures of care and bioethics of faith within oncology. The essay concludes by considering alternative hope tactics—“hoping for other things”—in relation to cancer.



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