, Volume 13, Issue 2, pp 494–512 | Cite as

Repositioning biological citizenship: State, population, and individual risk in the Framingham Heart Study

  • Erik AardenEmail author
Original Article


The social implications of recent developments in the life sciences have widely been theorized in terms of ‘biological citizenship’; a notion that suggests that claims on collective resources are increasingly brought forward by groups of individuals organized around shared molecular biological characteristics, outside of traditional institutional formations centered on the state. In this paper, I propose to amend this notion by situating biological citizenship in its specific context of emergence. I suggest that the notion of molecular biological citizenship from below, with its focus on individual responsibility for disease risks, was in part facilitated by the development of ideas of individual responsibility for phenotypic ‘risk factors’ in the government-funded Framingham Heart Study in the United States. I reconstruct how the federal government retreated from direct operational responsibility for the Study, defined and maintained the boundaries of the population and contributed particular risk-based notions of life over more than six decades of cardiovascular disease research. I suggest that government, population, and life as defined in the Study are indispensable for contemporary notions of biological citizenship and that analysts need to attend to these situated origins in order to productively understand biological citizenship in relation to wider transformations of citizenship at present.


Framingham Heart Study biological citizenship cardiovascular disease biomedicalization risk factor biopolitics 



I would like to thank all interview respondents for their time and insight, as well as the Spring 2014 Harvard/MIT “STS and the life sciences” reading group, Alessandro Blasimme, Max Fochler, and Ingrid Metzler for their helpful observations about earlier drafts of the paper. Three anonymous journal reviewers have added insightful comments that greatly helped in clarifying the argument. Remaining shortcomings are entirely my responsibility. Research for this paper was supported by a European Commission Marie Curie Fellowship, Grant Number PIOF-GA-2010-272996.


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© Macmillan Publishers Ltd., part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Science and Technology StudiesUniversity of ViennaViennaAustria

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