Manufacturing Life, What Life? Ethical Debates Around Biobanks and Social Robots

Núria Vallès-Peris, Violeta Argudo-Portal, Miquel Domènech

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper, we explore how the definition of life takes on an essential character in the ethical debates around health technologies, with life thus being manufactured in the tensions and conflicts around the use of such artefacts and devices. We introduce concepts from science and technology studies (STS) to approach bioethics, overcoming the dualistic conception that separates the natural and the technological and questioning the dominant rationality that divides life into dualities. Drawing on two research projects in which we have been involved in recent years, one regarding biobanks and the other regarding social care robots, we explore how the ethical discussions about biobanks and robots imply particular notions of life. We argue that the contemporary epistemic category of life is a manufactured life in which various rationalities coexist: one rationality based on a separation between the technological and the human, focused on pragmatism and functionalities that tend towards a dualized notion of life divided into qualified and non-qualified life, and another rationality based on a non-essentialist ontology, focused on the mediating role of health technologies, that entails a distributed life appearing as a precarious effect of a network. Each of these rationalities allows the emergence of different issues and ethical concerns, thus enriching the bioethical debate.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2 Jun 2021


  • Biobanks
  • Dualization of life
  • Mediation
  • Science and technology studies
  • Social care robots


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