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Making Willing Bodies: Manufacturing Consent Among Prisoners and Soldiers, Creating Human Subjects, Patriots, and Everyday Citizens - The University of Chicago Malaria Experiments on Prisoners at Stateville Penitentiary


Bernard E. Harcourt


Columbia University

February 6, 2011

U of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 544
U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 341

Abstract:     
In March 1944, doctors at the University of Chicago began infecting volunteer convicts at Stateville Prison with a virulent strand of malaria to test the effectiveness and side-effects of potent anti-malarial drugs. According to Dr. Alf Alving, the principal investigator, malaria "was the number-one medical problem of the war in the Pacific" and "we were losing far more men to malaria than to enemy bullets." This refrain would rehearse one of the most productive ways of speaking about prisoner experimentation. The Stateville prisoners became human once again and regained their citizenship and political voice by sacrificing their bodies to the war effort. This paper explores how the consent of the prisoners was fabricated and compares this to the way in which the willingness of soldiers to sacrifice their lives is manufactured - and, far less dramatically, to the way in which we produce our own willingness in our everyday acceptance of the daily and ordinary routines of work, family life, and citizenship. Like the prisoners at Stateville, we are made to feel the need to sacrifice ourselves - to work, to vote, to serve, to abide, to agree - through very similar associations of bodily sacrifice with citizenship, loyalty, and patriotism.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 25

Keywords: human subjects, human experimentation, prisoner experimentation, malaria research, the University of Chicago, Stateville prison, consent, Nathan Leopold, World War II, Vietnam

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Date posted: February 10, 2011 ; Last revised: May 21, 2011

Suggested Citation

Harcourt, Bernard E., Making Willing Bodies: Manufacturing Consent Among Prisoners and Soldiers, Creating Human Subjects, Patriots, and Everyday Citizens - The University of Chicago Malaria Experiments on Prisoners at Stateville Penitentiary (February 6, 2011). U of Chicago Law & Economics, Olin Working Paper No. 544; U of Chicago, Public Law Working Paper No. 341. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1758829 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1758829

Contact Information

Bernard E. Harcourt (Contact Author)
Columbia University ( email )
Jerome Green Hall, Room 515
435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.law.columbia.edu/fac/Bernard_Harcourt
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