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Durham University

Department of Geography

Staff Profile

Publication details for Dr Elizabeth Johnson

Johnson, Elizabeth R. Reinventing biological life, reinventing 'the human'. Ephemera: Theory & Politics in Organization. 2010;10:177-193.

Author(s) from Durham


The techno-scientific framework known as biomimicry ‘reverse-engineers’ animal life to develop technologies and tactics that solve social and environmental problems. Its advocates have promised that it will spark a technological, environmental, and even social revolution. By viewing nature as a ‘mentor’ rather than a resource to be extracted, members of the biomimetic movement have also suggested that its practice will also overturn notions of human exceptionalism. This paper explores biomimicry’s ‘revolutionary’ potential by analyzing the work of advocates and supporters of biomimicry in the context of posthuman theory. It further places this potential in conversation with the broader economic conditions of biomimetic production. It ultimately asks how, in spite of its promises, biomimetic productions have thus far only managed to reinvent and reinforce current circuits of economic and geopolitical power. In conclusion, the paper works toward highlighting – and embracing – the ambivalence of both biomimicry and so-called post-humanism as the first step in developing a politics adequate to new forms of technological and biological production.