Archiving health and illness: conceptualisation of the body in a Portuguese biobank
Bodies in transition - Power, Knowledge and Medical Anthropology
Biobanks for clinical research are not a complete novelty. In the past, Medicine and life sciences were developed upon the use of human and non-human samples for diagnosis and research purposes. Constructing biobanks implies the harvest and storage of biological samples alongside with clinical data to a set of different collections. The biological samples are collected in a voluntary basis, from ill and healthy donors. During this processes of harvesting and storage, the biological products gain an autonomous existence and identity, different from those of the human individual who has given the sample. The sample identity is particularly given by coding and organization systems, obeying to clinical research criteria. The laboratory procedures scrutinize samples under advanced technologies, to remove impurities and the danger of samples? manipulation. Medical procedures are going deeper, the diagnosis moves from the body surface to the inner body, surpassing the precision of advanced imaging exams. The medical gaze is now focused in a deeper analysis of the body; genes, cells and nano entities are enough to produce a medical diagnostic, in certain cases. The fieldwork, based in a Portuguese biobank, shows the coexistence of attachment and detachment logics between the sample and the original individual body. The equation of time-space of corporeal viability is challenged. As if the self and the body could exist simultaneously in distinct times and places. In this sense, the vision of the body is fragmented: the body is likely to be a source of object-samples, which do not enable researchers to reconstruct or rescue the integral body or the integral individuality. The borders and the boundaries of the body are likely to be more unclear and indefinite, and the frontiers between public and private are also blurred.