Science, Technology, and Society Seminar: STS Circle at Harvard (In Person)


Monday, November 7, 2022, 12:15pm to 2:00pm


CGIS South, 1730 Cambridge Street, Thomas Chan-Soo Kang Room (S050)

"Moving Cells, Making Value: The Biography of Living Things Revisited"


Pierre DelvenneSenior Research Associate, Belgian Fund for Scientific Research (F.R.S.–FNRS); Professor of Science and Technology Studies, University of Liège.


Sam Evans

Cosponsored by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.


The examination of how biological materials are extracted from bodies and put into circulation provides an understanding of how living entities are made mobile and valuable. So far, STS and economic sociology have often theorized capitalist value production in terms of ‘gift’, ‘commodity’ or ‘asset’. Yet these distinctions are far from obvious in practice. By following the paths taken by human cells prepared as innovative therapies and describing their social and economic life, it becomes clear that valuable ‘things’ can move in and out of the gift, commodity, or asset form several times and in different sequences over the course of their lifecycle. I will argue that these flows are inherent to bioeconomic activity and that their characterization implies a shift of analytic attention from distinct forms of value (such as gifts, commodities and assets) to rapid transformations between such forms of value, which is key to understanding and criticizing contemporary capitalist value production. Informed by STS, valuation studies and cultural anthropology, the presentation will be based on the results of a case study of extracorporeal photopheresis, a therapeutic approach intended to treat patients with chronic graft-versus-host disease, which occurs when donor cells recognize the host organism as foreign.

Speaker Bio:

Pierre Delvenne is a Senior Research Associate of the Belgian Fund for Scientific Research (F.R.S.–FNRS) and Professor of Science and Technology Studies at the University of Liège, (Department of Political Science), where he heads the Spiral Research Center and the Interdisciplinary Research Unit Cité. His research lies at the intersection of STS and political economy and focuses on the multifaceted struggles within political and cultural economies of science, technology, and innovation. Previously he was a visiting Research Fellow in University of Vienna, King’s College University, Harvard University, Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina, Universidad de Buenos Aires and University of Westminster. Pierre is a founding member of the Belgian Network for Science and Technology in Society Studies (BSTS), a member of the Junior Council of the Science and Democracy Network, and an Associate Editor of the journal Science as Culture.

Lunch is provided if you RSVP via our online form by close of business on Thursday, November 3: