Biogenetics, The Nation, and Globalization in Paolo Bacigalupi’s Critical Dystopias

Derrick King


This essay explores the Utopian political possibilities of biogenetic seed production through a reading of two critical dystopian works by Paolo Bacigalupi: The Windup Girl and “The Calorie Man.” These texts are set in a dystopian future in which food production is completely controlled by a handful of global corporations who have successfully genetically engineered seeds to be unfertile. While extrapolating tendencies of the present overlap between neoliberal global capital and the development of patented genetically modified (GM) food production, Bacigalupi’s work also reveals fissures between the nation-state and global capitalism in the latter’s quest for unfettered circulation of profits. This essay tracks Bacigalupi’s representation of biogenetics across time and space, exploring how seeds and other genetic material can become a terrain of struggle between nation states and multinational capital and not simply a commodity through which value flows from the nation to global corporations. This essay argues that Bacigalupi’s work educates our desire for an alternative to the current configuration of biogenetic engineering—not in the service of a nostalgic rejection of bioengineering, but instead a future-oriented transformation of the conditions in which bioengineering is used and a movement toward a utopian future.

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