Hear Diderot justifying the vivisection of those condemned to death, stripped of their legal status. Hear Pasteur demanding the bodies of detainees from the Emperor of Brazil for dangerous treatments. Hear Koch calling for the internment of indigenous people to inject with arsenic. “Test experimental remedies on worthless individuals”, says Furetiere in 1690 in his Universal Dictionary.
These are the paralysed, the orphaned, the homeless, prostitutes, slaves, the mentally ill, prisoners, those condemned to death, the “vile bodies” who have historically served as the raw material for modern medical science. This book recounts a history ignored by the historians of science. At its core stands the question of how social risk is allocated (who carries the greatest risk in the course of innovation? Who are the greatest beneficiaries?), and the logical connection between the sacrifice of the most vulnerable, the modern scientific method, racism, class prejudice and the devaluation of lives deemed not worth living. How, at the same time that the formation of scientific rationalism was underway an “abominable rationalism” also developed, charged with justifying the unjustifiable.
This study of the historical technologies of debasement calls for the creation of a political philosophy of scientific practice.
Had a go at translating the blurb from the back of Gregoire Chamayou's Vile Bodies, as yet unpublished in English, in order to try and improve my French. Wish I had time to translate the whole book; very Foucauldian.