Programme

(T115)
Remaking the biosocial by other means
Location 131
Date and Start Time 02 September, 2016 at 16:00
Sessions 2

Convenors

  • Susan Kelly (University of Exeter) email
  • Sahra Gibbon (University College, London) email

Mail All Convenors

Short Abstract

Health, genetics, climate, agriculture, and human/nonhuman relations are areas where biosocial knowledge is being constituted. The track seeks comparative national and/or transnational perspectives on the Biosocial, and on forms of biological plasticity and/or social determinism they entail/produce.

Long Abstract

With degradation of 'the gene for' understandings, and both life and human scientists calling into question 20th century nature/culture debates, the notion of the 'biosocial' has picked up renewed force across disciplines, emerging as a central framework for new models of the body/world interface, partly as a result of new fields of science as such as epigenetics (Landecker and Panofsky 2013). These developments are directing attention to complex ways in which the 'biological' and the 'social' are both produced and interact, as well as to the ways such interactions are modelled. Human health and genetics are some areas in which biosocial knowledge is being produced; others include human/environment interactions relating to the climate, agriculture, and human/nonhuman relations. Biosocial knowledge is now being positioned as having economic impact and value as well. This track is open to contributions from across the global south and north that ideally can bring comparative national and/or transnational perspectives to issues raised by the Biosocial, and the forms of biological plasticity and/or social determinism they entail and produce, as well as contributions that reflect on the interdisciplinarity entailed in biosocial research. It particularly seeks contributions that can reflect on how histories of the biological vis-a-vis the 'environment' inform seemingly novel configurations which may or appear to constitute the biosocial by 'other means'. It seeks to widen discussion of these developments beyond Euro-American societies to facilitate knowledge of how particular different 'local biologies' (Lock and Nguyen 2010) expand and extend across national and trans-national arenas.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

SYSTEMS SCIENCE AND EPIDEMIOLOGY: THE NEED FOR A DIFFERENT EPISTEMOLOGY

Authors: Kenneth Rochel de Camargo, Jr (Universidade do Estado do Rio de Janeiro)  email
Claudia Medina Coeli (Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro)  email

Short Abstract

Systems science was heralded as a possible solution to impasses that have riddled epidemiology throughout its history, but this did not really come through. We argue that deeper differences in the metatheoretical framework underpinning are responsible for that.

Long Abstract

Beginning in 2009, the NIH created an initiative, called "Institute of Systems Science and Health", based on the idea that "[s]ystems science methodologies provide a way to address complex problems, while taking into account the big picture and context of such problems." One important area of application is the field of epidemiology, central to public health, for establishing causality and evaluating interventions. Throughout its history epidemiology has been subject to an inner tension between, grossly speaking, two different approaches to research: either focusing on the proximal aspects of processes, which resulted in risk factor epidemiology; or a more comprehensive approach incorporating the context. This new methodological development was heralded as an opportunity for the "contextualists" to overcome the dominance of their rivals, fusioning the "social" with the "biologic" in a somewhat chimeric, undefined "biosocial" synthesis. With the passing years, however, this future is yet to materialize. We contend that such changes require more than the incorporation of new methods, but a real transformation in its worldview, in the meta-theoretical components of scientific thinking described by authors such as Fleck (though styles), Kuhn (paradigms) and, more recently, Hacking (styles of reasoning). Such meta-theoretical components comprise, among other things, an epistemology that is adequate to its methodological approach. Epidemiological thinking seems still to be connected to a deterministic framework which includes a conception of science marked by various forms of naive realism, which do not mesh well with the complex approach.

Remaking the biosocial and cancer risk in southern Brazil.

Author: Sahra Gibbon (University College, London)  email

Short Abstract

This paper explores how the biosocial is being made in the context of an emerging discourse of epigenetics and cancer in Brazil, drawing on empirical research in cancer genetic clinics and reflecting on the historical and cultural specificity of Brazil.

Long Abstract

This paper explores how the biosocial is being made in the context of an emerging discourse of epigenetics and cancer in Brazil. Drawing on fieldwork undertaken with patients, practitioners and scientists in cancer genetic clinics in southern Brazil it examines how clinical uncertainties about the meaning and significance of genes and the environments that they shape and are shaped by give licence to new ways of constituting the contingency of cancer risk among patients and practitioners. I explore how oblique and diffusely articulated clinical narratives about the variability of genetic risk focused on vague and often narrow definitions of 'environments' or fleetingly given form through reference to 'estilo de vida' or 'lifestyle' nevertheless re-vitalise 'folk' notions about cancer risk for patients articulated as embodied vulnerability linked to diet, the (self) management of health or psyche and the legacies of transgenerational emotional trauma in the family. These re-configurations of the biosocial in the context of cancer risk and epigenetics are unfolding in a region where not only the biological consequences of lived environments have long been recognized and acted upon in the application of social medicine and public health but one where contemporary 'notions of the 'bio', are often constituted as malleable and contingent (Edmonds 2010, Sanabria 2016).

"A Most Bountiful Source of Inspiration": Theodosius Dobzhansky, Tropical Ecology, and the Adaptationist Program of Evolutionary Genetics

Author: Tito Carvalho (University of California, San Diego)  email

Short Abstract

Dobzhansky understood society in a biological register and brought politics into his scientific work. His study of tropical life particularly influenced his understanding of the biological and social. I explore his work in Brazil in a period of scientific and political reform.

Long Abstract

Dobzhansky worked in Brazil from 1943 to 1956 with the most genetically diverse species of Drosophila, the D.willistoni. Fascinated by tropical ecology, he thought of his Brazilian trips in light of Darwin's voyage onboard the Beagle. Yet, little is known about Dobzhansky's tropical research. While American scholars have overlooked Dobzhansky's work in Brazil, Brazilian scholars have focused on his role in the institutionalization of genetics in that country. As a result, we do not understand how Dobzhansky's Brazilian research fits with his genetics program that modernized Darwin's theory. I argue that said research was very important for the adaptationist programme of the Modern Synthesis. Based on Dobzhansky's correspondence, articles with Brazilian co-authors, and a chapter on "adaptive polymorphisms" in the 1951 edition of Genetics and the Origin of Species, I maintain that the richness of tropical life made it easier for Dobzhansky to see organic diversity as an adaptive response to environmental diversity. However, I open up the "tropics" for analysis by noting the ways in which Dobzhansky's views fit with, but also depart from, romanticized readings of the tropics by previous naturalists, including Humboldt, Wallace, and Darwin. I then discuss Dobzhasky's view of the adaptive nature of genetic variation vis-a-vis the contemporaneous work of the Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre, wherein the Brazilian population adapted to the tropics through racial mixture. I pay particular attention to their shared concepts of 'plasticity' and 'adaptability' as the foundation of their optimism.

Social considerations of current theorizing about the evolution of cooperation

Author: Ullica Segerstrale (Illinois Institute of Technology)  email

Short Abstract

This paper examines some recent contributions of life and human scientists in regard to the evolution of human cooperation, as well as their potential moral and political interpretations.

Long Abstract

For the last half century the insight that altruism can evolve under particular conditions, identified with "kin selection", has been a cornerstone of sociobiology. Recently, the issue has become controversial again. Some now insist on group selection as the driving force in evolution of cooperation. While some appear to associate group selection with only positive behaviors, others see ingroup-outgroup conflict as the inevitable other side of cooperation. Moreover, they typically regard group selection as requiring group extinction, which conjures up an image of our human past as a series of mass slaughters. Others, however, have launched the notion of gene-culture coevolution, as well as "cultural group selection", according to which culture has allowed humans to rapidly adapt to changing conditions. For them, "extinction" might involve such things as migration, or the adoption of new and better cultural habits from neighboring tribes. It is hard not to perceive moral and political implications of these different kinds of theorizing (see the recent sociobiology controversy). Though "cooperation" here looks better than "selfish gene theory", it might be best to be treading lightly. This paper examines the early 21st century's self-conscious drive toward knowledge integration among life and human scientists in regard to new interpretations of human evolution, as well as their potential moral and political interpretations.

Zika and the Biosociality of Emerging infectious Diseases

Author: Susan Kelly (University of Exeter)  email

Short Abstract

This paper reports the early stages of a ‘biosociality by other means’ project seeking to critically analyse medical, governance and subjective responses to emerging infectious diseases using a sociology of diagnosis perspective.

Long Abstract

Zika is a quickly emerging disease in Latin America, already being narrated by public health surveillance systems, epidemiologists, clinical diagnostic practices, community responses, travel alerts, and vector eradication programmes. Zika has been identified in African and Asian territories for decades, and is understood as a virus with an affinity for a particular mosquito that is also the vector for dengue and ch……. The actual fever appears to be mild in humans, although neurological sequelae to infection have been identified including microcephaly in infants born to women pregnant at the time of exposure, and the rare condition Guilliame-Barre disease, both of which can be fatal. The causal mechanisms remain to be determined, and human behaviour is implicated in narratives of emergence of the disease in Latin American context, while differentials in health outcomes have yet to be explained., specifically, why adverse health outcomes from infection appear to affect poorer areas of Latin America more severely. This paper reports the early stages of a 'biosociality by other means' project seeking to critically analyse medical, governance and subjective responses to emerging infectious diseases using a sociology of diagnosis perspective. Later stages of the project will involve ethnographic research in Brazil; this paper focuses on public health narratives of emerging disease and diagnostic practices.

The bio-silico-social assemblages: science and non/patienthood

Author: Annamaria Carusi (University of Sheffield)  email

Short Abstract

An analysis of the rise of a new mode of bio-social assemblage emerging from computational or in silico modeling, focusing on how cross-modality modeling reconfigures science infrastructures and interacts with current and emerging forms bio-social and digital non/patienthood.

Long Abstract

Computational biomedical researchers are making a bid to replace non-human animal models in biomedical science with 'in silico' models; they argue that these models make human-based methods more viable and could significantly reduce the dependence on animal models. While the socio-ethical concerns articulated in the 3Rs of animal experimentation are frequently invoked, the major drivers of this shift are the scientific limitations of non-human animal models, and the emerging new techniques for obtaining human-based data through in vivo, ex vivo and in vitro methods supplemented by computational methods for storing, aggregating, processing and modeling these data. Computational modeling introduces a radically new 'species' of modeling into the domain of biomedical science and translational research and development: that is, models of a different modality, with an entirely different hermeneutic than non-human animal models. The target of these models is the 'in silico' or 'digital patient', evoking a series of questions regarding the inter-relationship with other forms of patienthood (and non-patienthood): the non/patient as biological organism, social being, and as digitally active in many different ways. In this paper I discuss examples of the shift to the 'in silico' from two different areas of translational biomedical science: pre-clinical trials and translational pharmacology. I analyse the discursive rhetoric of the term 'in silico', and its juxtaposition with in vivo, in vitro and ex vivo methods, and show how this rhetoric is materially enacted in interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral infrastructures that institute new forms of bio-social assemblage, and its implications for bio-social non/patienthood.

Anticipation, Choice, and Personal Responsibility: Medicalization of Menopause as a Case Study of Gendered Governmentality

Author: Maral Erol (Istanbul Medipol University)  email

Short Abstract

The heightened health risk and anticipation discourse is a form of biosocial knowledge in medicalization of menopause in Turkey, as well as in other places. In the process, having the correct medical knowledge became a moral responsibility especially for women, determining a certain local biology.

Long Abstract

Theories of medicalization that became a popular subject in social sciences starting from the 1960s (Conrad 2007), gave way to that of biomedicalization in the 21st century (Clarke et al. 2003). Biomedicalization includes a heightened sense of anticipation of possible health risks, and optimization of life as a personal responsibility. These new ways of governing life and the biosocial have links to neoliberal ideas of individualization, and they became part of the popular medical discourse in Turkey starting from 1990s. Personal responsibility in health discourse disseminated mainly through mass media in health columns and TV shows in the last twenty years. Women constitute the main audience and consumers of this discourse, where anticipation is tied to the idea of responsibility.

In this paper, I will discuss this heightened health risk and anticipation discourse as a form of determining the biosocial through the example of menopause in Turkey. I use the concept of anticipation (Adams et al. 2009) to analyze the transformation from menopause as an "invisible" life period to descriptions of a conditional "second spring." In the popular medical narratives of menopause, osteoporosis, marital infidelity, freedom from menses and contraception, and anxieties about taking hormones are among things to be anticipated in menopause for women. I argue that the emphasis on anticipation and "correct" medical knowledge turns a particular way of living into a moral responsibility especially for women, which obscures the wider issues of social justice and gendered labor of care.

Pandora's Box: Increasing of IVF by Population Policy and unwanted consequences

Author: Jung-Ok Ha (Seoul National University)  email

Short Abstract

This paper discusses the sharp increase of IVF treatments following the policy of subsidies for IVF in South Korea. This policy was a result of the negotiations between the interests of Childless couples and the responsible government ministry. These two actors now face some unwanted consequences.

Long Abstract

Of late, the utilization of ART, in particular in vitro Fertilization (IVF), has been on the rise in South Korea. This increase is due to the so-called "low fertility response" policies adopted by the government, which subsidizes access to a range of ART such as IVF and IUI. The policy has also been benchmarked by the Taiwanese government.

The policy was a result of negotiations between the interests of those targeted (childless couples) and the Ministry of Health and Welfare. But these two actors now face some unforeseen and unwanted consequences: increases in the negative health index of infants (low birth weight and preterm delivery) and women, as well as an increased strain on the National Health Insurance system. Clinicians, of course, welcome the commercial revival that the policy has brought, but have done little to engage either in self-regulation in order to reduce multiple pregnancies, or inform their clients of the dangers involved with the procedures.

IVF's utilization as an instrument of population policy has led to a fetishization of numbers and concern for the welfare of recipients have been given scant attention. Indeed, while the present generation may have realized the "right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress", this is threatening the rights of the next generation. With IVF treatments on the rise, repeated failures have led many to make use of donated eggs or IVF surrogates. This threatens the poorly regulated IVF. I'll examine these issues by analyzing the documents and interviews with the main agents.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.