In Chemical Heroes: Pharmacological Supersoldiers in the US Military (Duke UP, 2021), Andrew Bickford analyzes the US military’s attempts to design performance enhancement technologies and create pharmacological “supersoldiers” capable of withstanding extreme trauma. Bickford traces the deep history of efforts to biologically fortify and extend the health and lethal power of soldiers from the Cold War era into the twenty-first century, from early adoptions of mandatory immunizations to bio-protective gear, to the development and spread of new performance enhancing drugs during the global War on Terrorism. In his examination of government efforts to alter soldiers’ bodies through new technologies, Bickford invites us to contemplate what constitutes heroism when armor becomes built in, wired in, and even edited into the molecular being of an American soldier. Lurking in the background and dark recesses of all US military enhancement research, Bickford demonstrates, is the desire to preserve US military and imperial power.
Dr. Bickford is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Georgetown University. You can learn more about his work here.
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