The Value of Life: Measurement, Stakes, Implications

The Value of Life: Measurement, Stakes, Implications

The Value of Life: Measurement, Stakes, Implications
International Conference
Wageningen University & Research, The Netherlands
28-30 June 2017

Conference website:

Keynote address: Katherine Gibson, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University, Australia

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 categorised 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 monetising 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 minutes) presentations, full (four-paper) sessions or even multiple sessions, as well as posters, theatrical performances, art installations, and whatever else you feel appropriate for this theme.

Please submit your proposal by 15 December 2016 to and/or We will notify you concerning your inclusion by the end of January 2017. Upon acceptance you will be asked to register and pay according to the following fee structure:

Registration fees:
€200 Full registration
€100 Student/professional/un(der)employed

This conference is organised by the Centre for Space, Place and Society (CSPS) at Wageningen University & Research in The Netherlands. CSPS brings together researchers from three university chair groups – Cultural Geography (GEO), Rural Sociology (RSO) and Sociology of Development Change (SDC) – and beyond to advance critical-constructive scholarship within the social sciences. Our particular focus is on issues of socio-spatial and environmental justice. In investigating dynamics of spatial and social rootedness, connections, and circulations, with special attention to questions of inequality, exclusion, difference and plurality, CSPS seeks to translate knowledge into practical action in pursuit of a more just and equitable world.

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