Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment
Research School for Socio-Economic and
Natural Sciences of the Environment

International Conference The Value of Life: Measurement, Stakes, Implications

Date: 28 June 2017 - 30 June 2017
Location: Wageningen

How to properly conceive of, value, measure, sustain and improve on ‘life’ – in its myriad forms and at a range of scales – is becoming an increasingly profound concern in the 21st century. In this age of computing and other significant technological advances, intensified measures of quantification are enabling us to identify and capitalise on new insights into countless dimensions of ‘life’ that had previously escaped our awareness and comprehension. Wary of the implications of this, however, some argue for a need to move away from quantification entirely to refocus on the qualitative conditions under which ‘life’ – human and/or nonhuman – is best sustained. Our conference aims to engage with this debate, asking what is at stake in contestations over appropriate standards for measuring and valuing ‘life’? How is ‘life’ variously categorized and defined in such different systems of measure? What are the oppositions, trade-offs, and potential complementarities between quantitative and qualitative assessments?

The conference aims to attract scholars across a range of social and natural sciences as well as practitioners, members of civil society and policymakers with interests in the politics of ‘life’ writ large. Specific topics may include (but are not limited to):

  • The constitution of ‘life’ or ‘population’ as an object of government;
  • What makes a life matter, ‘liveable’ or ‘good’;
  • Precarious life, environmental vulnerability and economic precarity;
  • Social practices around valuing life, including various forms of resistance;
  • Approaches to and techniques for ecosystem and natural capital valuation, as well as their socio-environmental consequences;
  • The role of new technologies in quantifying, monitoring and monetizing human and non-human life;
  • The emergence of ‘life sciences’, biotechnology and the genetic engineering of human and non-human life;
  • More than-, post – and/or non-human perspectives on life, including its value in the context of biomedical enhancement;
  • Nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science (NBIC) and/or synthetic biology.

We encourage submissions in a variety of formats, including abstracts for individual (15 min.) presentations, full (4 paper) sessions or even multiple sessions, as well as posters, theatrical performances, art installations, and whatever else you feel appropriate for this theme.

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