How contemporary biomedicine operates within a political economy of hope



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Geographies of Biomedicine

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Contemporary biological citizenship, as defined by Rose & Novas (2005) is a field full of hope and that it is based on the hope that the modern health science will introduce advanced treatments soon. The article also continues to state that economy of hope involves possibility and expectations that require the realization of promising and potential futures and that it is often under conditions that affect suffering and inequity. The economy of hope is cumbered with several shortcomings that include inability to care for a sick individual, low income in individuals, embezzled or lack, thereof, funds in research projects, just to mention but a few (Rose & Novas, 2005). I believe contemporary medicine plays a significant role in a political economy of hope. This article, hereby, discusses to what extent contemporary biomedicine operates within “a political economy of hope”.


Biological citizenship

Rose and Novas (2005) define biological citizenship as majorly the linkage of people’s mental apprehension to the concept of all things to do with biology and the human body hence also viewing the society as a whole biologically. In an ethnography of the Chernobyl disaster ‘Life Exposed’ by Adriana Petryna (2004), she defines biological citizenship as a much larger than normal demand, but restricted obtainability or approachability to a form of prosperity on the biological and significantly medical field. Dr. Stefan Ecks (2005) gave a clear definition of biological citizenship as interest in biology and physiology related to clinical medicine and discoveries on technology with regards to the medical field. He gives an example of biological citizenship as “pharmaceutical citizenship” attributed to pharmacological preparations, products or drugs. How do biological citizenship and contemporary medicine co-relate? As stated, biological citizenship allows one to partake in medical technologies, and modern medicine involves all these discoveries in the most recent medical field.


                                               Contemporary medicine.

Contemporary medicine involves biological discoveries, biotechnological fabrication, biomedicine in general and genomics. It consists of visualizing the body at a molecular level and, as a result altering genetics, shaping the human biology unlike in the earlier days when no intervention would have been made. Biomedicine has advanced over time in regards to the core activities of medicine that is, diagnosis, treatment and prognosis. Recently, there are procedures to visualize internal or visceral organs in diagnostic procedures; like MRIs- Magnetic Resonance Imaging, Computed Tomography scans, there is In- vitro fertilization, genetic screening, genetic therapies. ( F Zampieri, 2017) states that it has been cumbersome trying to eliminate natural selection despite all the measures put across as medicine deals with disease on a molecular level and tries to alter them that are also factors of natural selection. Aside from having advantages, contemporary medicine also has its consequences. The co-founder of the Cochrane Collaboration, Peter Gotzcshe, states that “prescribed medication is the third most common cause of death globally after heart disease and cancer”. Hospitals have been of great help in the medical field as it provides an ambient environment for patients to recover but has also caused hospital acquired or nosocomial infections due to bacteria present in hospitals like Staphylococcus Aureus. Hence, modern medicine has been considered a significant menace to public health. Contemporary medicine has also brought about ethical concerns, especially in clinical genomics and genetics. These concerns broke down into the following categories: deciding on testing the individual, how accurate the test is, giving patients accurate and honest information, and many other concerns (Greely H, 2015). Furthermore, as Rosa & Novas (2005) state, contemporary medicine which involves visualizing the body at the visceral and molecule level has brought about opportunities to generate prosperity in abundance but has also resulted in health ethical issues of great depth. Ethics, therefore, entails satisfying the needs of the client and maintaining a professional and credible relationship with them.

                                               Hope linked to biomedicine.

Hope, as defined by the Medical Dictionary, is the expectation that something desired will occur. Hope is, therefore, a psychosocial aspect. Investing in clinical biomedicine by individuals and organizations involves providing needs for the less fortunate in times of crises, donating blood samples or organs for transplant, participating in awareness campaigns, curbing stigma, engaging in clinical trials of finding a cure, and or participating in medical studies (Rose & Novas, 2005). Over time, many organizations have come up with ways to help those with rare illnesses, those undergoing palliative care, the less fortunate, those facing stigma, those suffering in society and or during times of a pandemic. An example is AIDS activism, cancer awareness programs, mental health campaigns, autism awareness, and many others. All these, in one way or another, have brought such a vast difference in the contemporary medical field. Per the coronavirus pandemic, during the times of lockdown, where there is instead despair than hope, health care workers and leaders are instilling hope by researching to develop a vaccine and also being on the front-line in taking care of COVID-19 patients. Many individuals are going forward to participate in the COVID-19 vaccine trials, just like it was during the development of the HIV/AIDS drug (Gieryn and Epstein, 1998). Many organizations have also been distributing food, handing out masks, and sanitizers to the less fortunate during these depressing times of the pandemic and, as a result instilling hope.

In 2006, a study was conducted by Chungnam National University, the Republic of Korea on the nature of hope in hospitalized chronically ill patients. The patterns that emerged were “externalism orientation, pragmatism orientation, reality orientation, future orientation and internalism orientation”. This means that the interpretation of hope as a unital concept may not be the understanding of each and everyone’s hope. Each and every individual experiences hope quite differently. As a result, the hope of different patients should be assessed according to the patterns and not as a single concept. According to Coughlin S (2006), these patterns of hope are seen more often in palliative care patients, patients receiving news of life-threatening prognosis, those whose consent is sought for a life-threatening procedure, or those undergoing cancer chemotherapy.



Hope or hype

 With regard to instilling hope into patients, the issue of overpromising patients has come into place. Hype, as defined by Collier R (2012), is the interest in matters pertaining a genome in medicine which started as a keen interest among those doing research at that time rapidly changed into hyperbolized prospects and expectations of upheaval in the medical sector.  It is aggravated by unrealistic optimism. As stated by Struve (2015), media plays an important part in relaying information to individual in case of an alarming situation but it is also part of the reason why genohype is escalating overtime. “The demarcating line between offering over-optimistic and truthful hope is rather thin, and a delicate and diligent balance between these two has to be taken into consideration beforehand.” (Jha B, 2018). An example of the most recent hype is the hydroxychloroquine hype in the treatment of the novel COVID-19 (Heidi Ledford, 2020). As approved by The US Food and Drug Administration, hydroxychloroquine is a drug used for the treatment of malaria and some autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and lupus due to its anti-inflammatory property. Although, recently, in the event of coronavirus scare, people believed it is effective in COVID-19, leading to many opting for it without considering the adverse effects it carries along. These side effects include ototoxicity and visual disturbances. It can also lead to blindness in extreme toxicity. The hydroxychloroquine hype even led to a depleted supply of the drug hydroxychloroquine in some countries like Mexico (Heidi Ledford 2020).

Philosophically, hope has been considered essential in contemporary medicine due to the following reasons, the interrelation between hope and despair in that hope makes one seek treatment options but then again makes them susceptible to despair, giving up, in case the disease worsens further. According to Cheryl Mattingly (2010), individuals and families tend to seek or create hope during trying crises. There is also the issue of ethics in hope whereby health care-givers are to instill hope into patients and not false hopes. Furthermore, doctors need to be considerate and play an important role in giving patients hope by giving accurate and honest information.



The above article breaks down contemporary medicine, biological citizenship, and its relationship to contemporary medicine and finally ‘a political economy of hope’ and the difference between hope and hype in the recent society with regards to the medical field. With all the above explanations, contemporary medicine is a vital aspect of the political economy of hope in that advanced medicine has opened up so many possibilities in the medical field, thereby giving hope to individuals. Therefore, contemporary biomedicine operates on a really great extent within “a political economy of hope”. On the flip side, there are consequences, as mentioned above, but the merits weigh on a lot more. Contemporary medicine is a really great source of hope. Hope, on the other hand has been studied exclusively and attributed to different patterns as stated above, hope is really significant in the health sector due to most of the above-expounded reasons. Hope, not hype.


Collier, R., 2012. Separating hype from reality in the era of the affordable genome. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 184(6), pp.E287-E288.

Coughlin, S., 2020. Hope, Ethics, And Public Health.

Cheryl Mattingly., 2010 The Paradox Of Hope: Journeys through a clinical borderland.

Ecks, S., 2005. Pharmaceutical Citizenship: Antidepressant Marketing and the Promise of Demarginalization in India. Anthropology & medicine, 12(3), pp.239-254.

Greely, H., 2015. Ethical Issues In Clinical Genetics And Genomics.

Gieryn, T. and Epstein, S., 1998. Impure Science: AIDS, Activism, and the Politics of Knowledge. Contemporary Sociology, 27(5), p.496.

Heidi, Leidford., 2020. Chloroquine Hype Is Derailing The Search For Coronavirus Treatments. [online] Available at:  [Accessed 26 April 2020].

Jha, B., 2018. Hope and Modern Medicine. Healthcare Transformation, 3(1), pp.1-4.

Petryna, A., 2004. Biological Citizenship: The Science and Politics of Chernobyl-Exposed PopulationsOsiris, 19, pp.250-265.

Rose, N. and Novas, C., 2005. Biological citizenship. Global assemblages: Technology, politics, and ethics as anthropological problems, pp.439-463.

Struve, S.A., 2015. Shaping the genohype: A cautionary tale of overpromise (Doctoral dissertation, Communication, Art & Technology: School of Communication).

Zampieri, F., 2017. The Impact Of Modern Medicine On Human Evolution.

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