EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010


Disease as crisis, health as imagination

Location Callan CS1
Date and Start Time 25 Aug, 2010 at 11:30


Jean-Yves Durand (CRIA-UMinho) email
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Long Abstract

Diseases, whether affecting individuals or whole populations, are often perceived as states of crisis. Heterodox views propose other interpretations, but the institutionalized responses to diseases generally stress the exceptional character of abnormal periods of time. Sometimes, they play down fundamental rights and limit individual autonomy, imposing rules and practices (such as mass immunization): in biopolitics as in any social field, crisis can be a powerful legitimizing vector. But chronic ailments and cases in which the presence of new diseases becomes permanent lead to other reactions, pointing at the fuzzy limit between crisis and chronicity. Also, health is increasingly approached not as the normal (mute) state of the body, but as the result of an active engagement with the body, the self, and the environment, through a proliferation of practices: dietary systems, fitness lifestyles, spiritual philosophies…, combined in creative personal assemblages. The ethnography of therapeutic and wellness practices, from immunization to thermal baths, can help unravel the entanglement of the notion of "crisis" (now a metaphor of all evils) with representations of health and disease.

The flu pandemic has provided opportunities for observing individual and collective reactions to a sanitary situation officially labelled as crisis, as well as the imagination (or the lack of it) deployed in institutional and individual responses. The swiftness of these events, their global diffusion and the ethnographer's unavoidable involvement in them call for methodological and theoretical imagination: can the ethnography of crisis help solve the crisis of ethnographic representation?...

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.


AIDS in Gulu Northern Uganda: ethnography of anti-retroviral therapy (ART) and health perceptions in managing HIV/AIDS in children

Author: Constantine Loum (University of Vienna)  email
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Long Abstract

HIV/AIDS still sends enormous chills through the minds and hearts of millions globally; the spectre of acquiring HIV is a dreaded possibility, yet its still true that many people live lifestyles that easily predispose them to HIV; or in some cases wars and pestilence say in the great lakes region of Africa have been vehicles of transmission of the disease as thousands of people are displaced, women are raped etc.

More and more children are undergoing ART as a way of controlling HIV/AIDS, however it is crucial to understand the perspectives of their parents and or carers on the AIDS pandemic and the impact of ART on the quality of life of their children. The socio-medical views of these clients based on an ethnographic study give a holistic understanding of the 'crisis' of HIV/AIDS as well as their hopes, fears and expectations of ART as HIV/AIDS become a chronic disease.

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Social life of a biological therapy

Author: Elsa Mateus (Institute of Social Sciences - University of Lisbon)  email
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Long Abstract

Based on the argument proposed by Whyte, Van der Geest and Hardon (2002) that medicines can be studied as material things of therapy and, as such, holders of social lives, this paper intends to be an ethnographic essay about a biological therapy, within the concept of pharmaceutical nexus (Petryna and Kleinman, 2006).

Presenting a synopsis of the social life of Enbrel, a medicine framed in the category of so-called biological response modifiers, which are produced from a living organism through genetic engineering and recommended for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis, juvenile idiopathic arthritis, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis, this paper pretends to outline an overview on the processes of commodification, globalization and localization, its specific role in the health care technologies in Portugal and its implications in social relations coupled with the metaphoric and metonymic associations drawn by consumers in a active management of their illness.

Perceptions of body and illness in the context of ethnicity.Thoughts arising from ethnographic field work

Author: Maria José Casa-Nova (University of Minho)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper reports field work of an ethnographic nature carried out among Gypsy families in Porto. It considers perceptions about the value of the body associated with illness and vaccination, as influenced by ethnicity.

Early results suggest a relatively recent concern with the vaccination of children linked to a fear of physical consequences that may inhibit future social relations and intra-group commitment. In a world where matrimonial choice is limited (within the group), this concern is full of significance and meaning for both genders. This is because the body and the image associated with it (the latter being founded on standards of beauty and function endowed with certain specificities) comprise a specific kind of matrimonially profitable capital.

If health is not a state but a process, is the disease a chance to find a way?

Author: Virgínia Henriques Calado (CRIA - Uminho)  email
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Long Abstract

Severe disease is usually an event that triggers a personal crisis, which tends to be seen tragically. However, in a macrobiotic diet system, the crisis caused by disease are often presented as an opportunity to change lifestyle habits (especially eating habits) and create the possibility for personal development. In this sense the concept of disease as crisis corresponds to the widely disseminated view that connotes crisis with opportunity and something positive. In this presentation, I will discuss this specific point of disease, framing it in a more general discussion on the concepts of health and illness in macrobiotics. Drawing on ethnographic material, I will try to highlight the strength that the concept of immune system holds there. This point is so strong that, paradoxically, objection to vaccination is used as a way to protect the immune system.

Swine flu representation in mass media conspiracy imaginary

Author: Iacob Ionela Florina (Babes-Bolyai University)  email
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Long Abstract

The new swine flu alert and the vaccination campaigns implemented in the last year released a veritable psychosis in the masses and particularly in fundamentalist oriented communities.

Our paper follows the examination of the conspirational imaginary as it appears in Romanian virtual space and mass media, that, drawing from so called scientific, humanist or religious arguments, affirms the existence of a global manipulation force witch exploits economically or in other way the population by deliberate releasing of influenza viruses and vaccination campaigns with negative side effects.

The central part of our study is focused on analyzing the way in which conspirational rhetoric present in virtual and media spaces creates alternative representations of flu pandemic dynamic and of medical treatments (vaccines) implied, through orchestration of lay interpretation of medical problems with other cultural and ideological aspects. Thus, a medical crisis is reconstructed through the conspirational imaginary of mass control.

Coping strategies with swine flu in Ukraine

Author: Iwona Kolodziejska-Degorska (University of Warsaw)  email
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Long Abstract

In autumn 2009 swine flu was a vital subject in Ukrainian public discourse.

How do inhabitants of Vinnytsia Oblast reacted on this so called crisis situation? Therapeutic and non-therapeutic strategies of coping with situation - officially called flu epidemic - will be discussed.

The perception of the swine flu itself and state imposed practices - as travel restrictions, surgical masks wearing duty for officials etc was strictly interconnected to the visions of the state and the crisis of the state structures. Presidential campaign was seen as playing prominent role in the occurrence of the "epidemic".

The problem of trust in the state structures and expert opinions monopolizing our view on danger (according to Beck) can be seen in individual choices of therapeutic and preventive strategies - starting with garlic necklaces for kids, through individual bio-medicines choices, to the eschatological visions connected with flu epidemic.

Construction of the swine influenza epidemic as a state of crisis in Mexico

Author: Anna Wadolowska (Adam Mickiewicz University, Poznan)  email
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Long Abstract

The aim of my presentation is to explore the way in which the image of the swine influenza crisis was constructed by the Mexican authorities and the popular media. I will be discussing institutionalized reactions to the new sanitary situation, as well as new practices in biopolitics as a response to the epidemic. Moreover, I will raise the question of how the popular media took part in shaping the image of the crises. I will analyze the discourse about this extraordinary state which was produced by both, the Mexican government and the nationwide newspapers. I will take into account the manner in which the very disease, the danger it caused to human beings, the scope of the epidemic, and the threat to the national population were presented. I will describe distinctions in the construction of the crisis in various newspapers which took different sides: supporting or opposing the government policy.

Changing engagements with immunization: is the 'universal vaccination' principle in crisis?

Author: Manuela Cunha (Universidade do Minho, CRIA-UMinho)  email
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Long Abstract

Recent events related to the flu pandemic have epitomized some features of a changing engagement with immunization which has destabilized the principle of universal vaccination. Despite common perceptions that associate non-vaccination with exotic locations and incomplete scientific rationality, there have been phenomena of vaccine uptake decline in the "North" which are at odds with the evolutionary overtones of this framework of understanding. Far from being a residual anachronism deemed to fade away, the emergence of non-vaccination practices is part of wider social transformations framing notions of personalised immunity and health management, changing perceptions of individual and collective risk, trust of state and global institutions. Such transformations build well beyond the narrow framework of episodic vaccine science controversies, which are themselves differently formulated across countries. Findings from an ongoing project set up in several settings will aim at showing the variety of forms attached to the contemporary social acceptability of vaccination.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.