Fat capital: bioprospecting for breast-making gold
Within the domain of breast reconstruction, abject fat has become a form of biovalue to be harnessed, harvested, and remediated through fat transfer, fat grafting, the therapeutic use of fat stem cells, and fat banking. Each of these technologies deploys fat as capital and promises to return corporeal wholeness following breast cancer surgery. This paper explores the supposed endless malleability of fat and the Promethean dream it represents. In the context of these technologies, the paper asks: under what conditions can fat become biovalue; what new corporeal economies are created through the labor of fat; how is this form of biovalue inextricable from the vast circuitry of the breast cancer industry; and how do broader patterns of social dispossession delimit who has access to this dream? It becomes evident that fat gets to be revalued and remediated by women already privileged within circuits of capital, demarcations along lines of race, and notions of normative embodiment. Ultimately, it is the ideal neoliberal subject—one who is able to assume responsibility for her own health—that is the inheritor of this dream.