The Economization of Life
Michelle Murphy is Professor of History and Women and Gender Studies at the University of Toronto and the author of Seizing the Means of Reproduction: Entanglements of Feminism, Heath, and Technoscience and Sick Building Syndrome and the Problem of Uncertainty: Environmental Politics, Technoscience, and Women Workers, both also published by Duke University Press.
Arc III traces the rise of “invest in a girl” campaigns in the 1990s and the gendering of human capital approaches to the value of life. It shows how the thick archive of postcolonial data produced by family planning was reworked to calculate that educating girls was more beneficial to gdp than directly investing in family planning because education was correlated with both reduced future fertility and increased wages. Through these targeted campaigns to invest in a girl, the practices of the economization of life were financialized, becoming preemptive and speculative investments in risks. In the policies and campaigns about investment into girls, life was explicitly calculated as a form of capital that either increases or diminishes in value.