Making Willing Bodies: Manufacturing Consent Among Prisoners and Soldiers, Creating Human Subjects, Patriots, and Everyday Citizens

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.