Programme

(T138)
Targeted Biomanagement: Ethics, Politics, and Unruly Regimes of Calculation
Location M212
Date and Start Time 02 September, 2016 at 11:00
Sessions 1

Convenors

  • Rebecca Hester (Virginia Tech) email
  • Saul Halfon (Virginia Tech) email

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Short Abstract

This panel coins the term "targeted biomanagement" as a language for discussing efforts to gain biological control. It also shows that while these efforts often fail, they are productive insofar as they generate an unruly regime of strategies and calculations.

Long Abstract

The last few decades have witnessed a growing obsession with understanding, managing, and controlling the body, biology, and life itself through an ever-expanding variety of domains. Health, medicine, nutrition, the life sciences, bio and nanotechnology, among other fields, have all joined in the effort to quantify, surveille, predict, prevent and calculate "bio" inputs and outcomes at the most macro and micro levels. This panel coins the term "targeted biomanagement" as a language for thinking across these widely varied, and often highly targeted, efforts. The papers in this session illuminate a broader paradox at work in this proliferation of techniques and practices to control unruly vitality: not only do the body, biology and life itself remain obstreperous, but the proliferation of strategies and regimes of calculation meant to control them have themselves become increasingly unruly.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

"Certain Exposure": Pre-exposure Prophylaxis for HIV (PrEP) and the (Un)manageable Body

Author: Jonathan Banda (Virginia Tech)  email

Short Abstract

This paper analyzes pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV as a form of “targeted biomanagement,” designed to recuperate "risky" populations as subjects of public health. The problematic US roll-out demonstrates the contingent nature of contemporary biopolitics as well as the unruly nature of the body.

Long Abstract

The 2012 FDA approval of the prophylactic use of antiretrovirals signaled a major shift in how US public health conceptualizes HIV prevention for "high risk" populations. While previous strategies to control the HIV epidemic aimed to prevent exposure to the virus, prophylaxis assumes that certain bodies will be exposed and aims to modify them at the molecular level to ward off infection. This paper analyzes pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV (PrEP) as a form of "targeted biomanagement," designed to intervene upon the bodies of "risky" populations and recuperate them as ideal subjects of public health. PrEP is often positioned as yet another logical addition to the HIV prevention "toolkit," its faults to be rectified by future technological innovations. Via a discursive analysis of public health literature, promotional materials, public press, and regulatory documents, this paper offers a critical analysis of two aspects of this technology: (1) the difficulty of identifying and reaching those for whom PrEP is indicated, and (2) the potential that PrEP enables the proliferation of practices that previous HIV prevention strategies sought to eliminate. These outcomes demonstrate the contingent nature of contemporary biopolitical regimes as well as the unruly nature of the body, whose potential continuously exceeds attempts to categorize, quantify, and render it manageable.

The Pre-Infectious Body: Vaccination as "Targeted Biomanagement."

Author: Tarryn Abrahams (Virginia Tech)  email

Short Abstract

Increasing numbers of vaccinations present increasing attempts at “biomanagement” of the body and microbes. This paper asks whether, and in what ways, these increasing attempts are producing unruly technologies, discourses and resistance. It also asks what is at stake in such endeavors.

Long Abstract

Vaccination has long been considered a modern medical miracle. Its use to prevent disease, presents a targeted means of managing bodies and microbes. In the last three decades, there has been a tremendous increase in the number of vaccinations given to infants and children, as well as a growing number of vaccinations recommended for adults, with hundreds more in development. This paper theorizes this increased "biomanagement" of the body via vaccination and asks whether and in what ways efforts to inoculate ourselves in order to produce immunity are not only producing an unruly regime of pro-vaccination technologies and discourses, but also generating resistance at multiple levels from the microbial to the social. Given the tensions between attempts at achieving immunity through biomanagement and resistance to such attempts, the paper asks what is at stake in techno-scientific endeavors such as mass vaccination campaigns, which presume universal bodies and zero benefit of infection.

Proliferating Nutrition: Counting and Calculating for Healthy Lives

Author: Saul Halfon (Virginia Tech)  email

Short Abstract

The US Department of Agriculture negotiates nutritional policy and advocacy in the face of proliferating nutritional measures and theories, which stand as enemies to a clear public message about nutritional health, behavior, and risk.

Long Abstract

The goal of targeted biomanagement encounters a particular quandary in the realm of nutrition. On the one hand, proliferating markers, measures, and goals are useful to scientific knowledge, the nutritional market, and the creation of the nutritional self - individuals who constantly monitor bodily health in terms of nutritional inputs. On the other hand, health educators and nutritional regulators seek to deliver a clear, consistent, science-based message to the general public about both consumption and monitoring: what we should eat; how much and when; how we know when failure is upon us; and what nutritional health failures mean. Proliferation and unruly complexity remain enemies to a clear public message, and thus lead to a messy nutritional self that cobbles together unhealthy habits into a narrative of goodness or a self-defeating self that can never hope to measure up.

This talk explores how the US Department of Agriculture, America's chief nutrition agency, negotiates nutritional policy and advocacy in the face of proliferating nutritional measures and theories, particularly as it attempts to police nutritional risk.

Targeted Biosurveillance: A Productive Endeavor

Author: Rebecca Hester (Virginia Tech)  email

Short Abstract

This paper looks at the politics and ethics of attempts to manage unruly biology in a global context and illuminates the ways these efforts have led to the growth of a complex and unruly biosurveillance regime.

Long Abstract

After having declared the end of communicable diseases in the 1970's, the global health establishment subsequently reversed its opinion in light of the emergence of HIV/Aids in the 1980's and the ensuing proliferation of bioterror, zoonotic, and infectious disease threats to humans. Consequently, the last four decades have witnessed the expansion of bioseurveillance efforts scaling from the most micro to the most macro levels. Today, more than ever, there exists a broad and deep techno-scientific biosurveillance network- including the mathematical modeling of biocomplexity, strong cross-border laboratory infrastructures and communication, increased medical countermeasures, and tighter immigration enforcement measures- targeted specifically at managing the mutability and mobility of contagious bodies. Despite the ever-increasing reach and strength of this network, however, it seems that the emergence and proliferation of infectious diseases like Ebola, Swine Flu, SARS, and now the Zika Virus continually evade efforts to preempt, prevent, and manage them. This paper looks at the politics and ethics of attempts to manage unruly biology in a global context and illuminates the ways that efforts to contain the circulation of infectious disease have led to the growth of a complex and unruly biosurveillance regime that has proliferated right alongside the diseases it fails to vanquish.

This track is closed to new paper proposals.