Non-conforming bodies: an exploration of public health knowledge, practice and technologies beyond 'the body'
Fay Dennis (Goldsmiths, University of London)
Emma Garnett (King's College London)
Start time:
1 September, 2016 at 9:00
Session slots:

Short abstract:

This track invites presentations which explore non-conforming bodies in public health knowledge, practice and technologies. We are interested in opening up dialogue on how bodies get enacted beyond their boundaries and thereby confront normative imaginings of 'the body'.

Long abstract:

This track explores bodies beyond their surface-boundaries, as bodies which do not conform to our expectations in terms of how they engage with technologies, classifications and/or health services. Rather than starting out with 'the body', we engage with the relational configurations - or collectives - which bodies compose and comprise. In this way we cross different kinds of bodily scales (from the deviant body to population bodies), reflecting specifically on the ways in which bodies emerge and get problematised through the targeting of normative understandings of 'health'. For example, drugged bodies fail to engage with public health technologies, such as opiate substitution treatment, in the intended way as a physically dependent body. In epidemiology, populations as multiple bodies are difficult to distinguish and measure. By foregrounding the articulation of different kinds of collectives relating to health - from the drug-using-event to the articulation of epidemiological categories of risk - we aim to explore the productive capacities of thinking with non-conforming bodies, both as a way to tell us more about 'the body' and to re-think current interventions. For example, in epidemiology, bodies and environments are conceptualised as distinct, yet if the starting point was bodies-as-environments then articulating how one intervenes is re-configured. Similarly, in harm reduction, considering bodies as always in a state of 'becoming' refigures interventions towards living better in the tensions. Non-conforming bodies are a way to examine the contingent and practical engagements that make health possible, whilst problematising public health attempts to assemble, hold together and intervene with bodies.