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A body worth defending : immunity, biopolitics, and the apotheosis of the modern body / Ed Cohen.

  • Cohen, Ed, 1958-
  • Books

About this work


Biological immunity as we know it does not exist until the late nineteenth century. Nor does the premise that organisms defend themselves at the cellular or molecular levels. For nearly two thousand years "immunity," a legal concept invented in ancient Rome, serves almost exclusively political and juridical ends. "Self-defense" also originates in a juridico-political context; it emerges in the mid-seventeenth century, during the English Civil War, when Thomas Hobbes defines it as the first "natural right." In the 1880s and 1890s, biomedicine fuses these two political precepts into one, creating a new vital function, "immunity-as-defense." In A Body Worth Defending, Ed Cohen reveals the unacknowledged political, economic, and philosophical assumptions about the human body that biomedicine incorporates when it recruits immunity to safeguard the vulnerable living organism.


Durham ; London : Duke University Press, 2009.

Physical description

x, 372 pages ; 25 cm


Bibliographic information

Includes bibliographical references (p. [323]-358) and index.


Living before and beyond the law, or a reasonable organism defends itself -- A body worth having, or a system of natural governance -- A policy called milieu, or the human organism's vital space -- Incorporating immunity, or the defensive poetics of modern medicine -- Conclusion : immune communities, common immunities.


  • English

Where to find it

  • Location

    Medical Collection QW540 2009C67b


    Open shelves

Permanent link



  • 9780822345183
  • 0822345188
  • 9780822345350
  • 0822345358