Accepted paper:

Producing responsibilities: Neurobiological knowledge and the British state


Tineke Broer (University of Edinburgh)
Martyn Pickersgill (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

Paper long abstract:

In the UK, the promotion of 'active' citizenship (with its concomitant responsibilisation of specific citizens) has sometimes been underpinned by concepts and findings 'translated' from neuroscientific research. For example, parents are urged to create a good 'home environment' so that the still plastic brains of their offspring can develop in the best ways possible, and older adults are encouraged to stay physically and mentally fit as 'what is good for your heart is good for your brain'. Especially in the former context, the ultimate optimisation of the social and economic contribution of (proto)citizens is framed as having neurobiological prerequisites. In this paper, we focus on UK health policies regarding older adults, adolescence, and (in particular) the early years, investigating if and how these policies draw on the neurosciences. We ask: what kinds of citizens are performed through such documentation, and what (self-)care practices are enabled and disabled? We conceive of responsibility as a discourse that ebbs and flows, rather than as a stable kind that moves linearly and uniformly from (for example) state to citizenry; hence, we consider the different kinds of 'responsibility' that are evident across policy domains. Our aim is to understand what the productive effects are of the political enrolment of neuroscience, whilst nevertheless remaining sensitive to the normative implications that emerge from its embedding within policies and services. In this respect, we are concerned with the ways in which (biosocial) communities and forms of solidarity are un/made in order to render policy operable.

panel D1
Technologies of care and participation: Shifting the distribution of expertise and responsibilities