TECHNIS Webinar (2/3/2021) by Stathis Arapostathis “Assetizing Food: Omics, Knowledge Management and Technoscientific Capitalism in Greece”
The paper is a work in progress that studies that process of assetization of food and agrifood production in Greece. Recent approaches from Science and Technology Studies have attempted to recast political economy as a research topic in the social studies of science and innovation. In this context the recent edited volume “Assetization” by Kean Birch and Fabian Muniesa (2020) has set a concise research agenda for studying the processes of turning “things” into assets through science and technology. In this analytical setting techno-scientific networks can be studied as key emerging actors in assetizing agrifood products and in participating in the making of technoscientific capitalism in Greece. The last few years there is an emerging research community in “omics” (genomics, proteomics, metabolomics) that promotes relevant research facilities as national research infrastructure that would secure authenticity of agricultural products and would set the terms for the development and growth of Greek agriculture.
In this context the paper is a study of a toxicological and biochemistry lab in a peripheral university of Greece. The aim is to provide an in-depth study of the process of assetization through the use of biochemistry and metabolomics. The case study shows the way antioxidants have been introduced by the Biochemistry laboratory of the University of Thessaly in order to question dominant techno-solutionism that stresses the importance of pharmaceuticals to secure healthy conditions at a personal and societal level. The study shows how antioxidants became agents for the promotion of a new model of political economy of knowledge that reproduces technoscientific capitalism at regional level. The paper argues that antioxidants have become the immutable mobiles (Latour, 1994) for the lab. They have shaped the lab’s intellectual property strategy, the knowledge management and the visions for a personalized medicine that is based on well-structured nutrition, intermittent fasting diet, new biometrics and the use of local natural resources and products. The paper contributes a sociological analysis of a lab that deconstructs the center-periphery distinction and unravels the enactment of a type of regional capitalism where the surplus value of the local natural resources has been co-produced with new roles for scientists in the neoliberal regime of knowledge making. The paper is based on 18 months of fieldwork that involved interviews with the research team, observations, analysis of reports and published articles.