Upcoming AAA 2017 Annual Meeting: Highlights of Scheduled Sessions

This week on the blog we are highlighting two scheduled sessions at the upcoming American Anthropological Association 2017 Annual Meeting in Washington, DC from November 29th through December 3rd. Anthropology Matters!, the theme for the 116th AAA Annual Meeting, is a call to unite the field of anthropology, to embrace difficulty, and to promote the persistent relevance of what anthropology is and does. As stated on the Annual Meeting website, available here, anthropology is best at describing the past, exploring the present, predicting the future, and navigating the processes of being and becoming human.

The first scheduled session highlighted is entitled Biomedical Subjectivities and Imagined Futures (2-0145) and features oral presentations by Kimberly Dukes, Markus Idvall, Leslie Carlin, Dana Ketcher, and Rebecca Grunzke. The second scheduled session is an Executive Roundtable session entitled Do Black and Brown Lives Matter to Anthropology?: Race, Bodies, and Context. This roundtable features John Jackson, Norma Mendoza-Denton, Aimee Cox, Jonathan Rosa, and Vanessa Diaz.


Biomedical Subjectivities and Imagined Futures (2-0145) 

Wednesday, November 29th – 12:00-1:45pm in Marriott Ballroom Salon 1

– Oral Presentation Session –

Kimberly Dukes (Co-Authored with Aaron Seaman) – University of Iowa

Title: “Let’s Take a Peek”: Looking At, For, and Away From Future Cancers

Abstract: This paper considers what it means to be living, for a time, “between” illnesses, a particular moment of what Lochlann Jain has called “living in prognosis.” How—ostensibly from a place of “health,” as some would define it—is one’s reckoning of the future shaped by prior experiences? Are there ways of imagining an embodied future other than the overdetermined eventuality of recurrence or other bodily breakdown? This paper contemplates how people who have been successfully treated for head and neck cancer envision themselves and their futures as they consider whether to undergo screening for lung cancer. Drawing on semi-structured, in-depth interviews with patients and providers at a Midwestern US academic tertiary care center, we explore the tension between some people’s reliance on surveillance as an active health practice and others’ comfort with uncertainty. As patients situate themselves in the space between cure and potential recurrence, they sometimes resist biomedical understandings of evidence, harms, and risks. As participants explore the costs—and even the perceived gifts—of cancer in their lives, they draw on other sorts of evidence, including fun lives and prices paid; personal and social narratives of cancer as something to be surveilled, cured, or merely interrupted; and the value of different kinds of knowing. Working in this context, then, the paper contributes to anthropological conversations about the ways that people make sense of the precarity of life, especially within a US biomedical landscape increasingly contoured by anticipatory conceptualizations of chronicity and risk.

 

Markus Idvall – Lund University

Title: Synchronizing Oneself with Science: How Individuals with Parkinson’s Disease Go Along with Clinical Trials

Abstract: Sweden has a long tradition when it comes to biomedical research on Parkinson’s disease. For example in the 1980s the first neuron cell transplantation to a Parkinson patient in the world took place in Sweden. Today Swedish Parkinson scientists, in collaboration with researchers in other countries, continue the search for a cure for Parkinson’s disease within several research fields. In the last years I have followed a biomedical research project in Sweden focused on realizing clinical trials with Parkinson patients within the field of cell transplantation. In my work I have conducted interviews with patients, researchers and medical staff as well as observations in hospital environments and in contacts with patient’s organizations.
My aim with this presentation is to explore what constitutes a clinical trial from the viewpoint of the patients. How does this biomedical research matter for trial-participating as well non-participating patients? How does one as patient follow and understand the clinical trials? How does one move along in relation to what one, on the basis of one’s degenerative illness, perceives as the progress of science? Individuals with Parkinson are, in this sense, temporal beings in whatever they do or calculate in relation to science. Taking part in clinical trials is viewed as a way of synchronizing one’s self with what one experiences as the tempo of practiced science. In my presentation I will explore different concepts for how a form of time sensitivity can be studied among patients.

 

Leslie Carlin (Session Chair, Co-Authored with Sonya Allin, Sarah Munce, Christine Ibrahim, Susan Jaglal) – University of Toronto

Title: Inside the BMD Black Box: Investigating the Performance and Production of Bone Material Density Tests

Abstract: Most research into the social context of bone mineral density (BMD) testing has focused on its consumers, mainly “older” women, and the effect of such tests on perceptions of aging bodies, in particular on the frightening risk of hip or other fragility fracture. BMD tests, which detect thinning (osteoporotic) bone, provide information on an invisible, painless, and otherwise unknowable aspect of bone health. From a health policy perspective, the cost of evaluating individuals’ fracture risk through such testing must be measured against both the expense of treating fracture patients and the trauma of injury. Between patient and policy, and very much under-investigated, is the material and social production of the BMD test itself, a procedure that often takes place in small (box-like) rooms using carefully calibrated machines operated by X-ray technologists with specialized training in BMD. In Ontario, Canada, the Ontario Health Insurance Program (OHIP) is a single-payer government-funded system that pays for BMD tests for individuals who meet OHIP’s eligibility criteria; these are based on a referring physician’s assignment of a “risk category.” In order to ensure reimbursement, the scanning facility’s intake staff must align the request with the OHIP risk designations, a process that is subject to judgement and error. “It’s always a hardship,” says one technologist. Using data from interviews with personnel at twelve scanning facilities in Ontario, we consider BMD testing as the creation of a ‘desirable’ artifact—the scan itself and the report created by the ‘reading physician’—in order to explore how a process, like a thing, can have a fluid and dynamic social life.

 

Dana Ketcher – University of South Florida

Title: Value of Genetic Testing and Counseling for Cancer Syndromes: Perspectives of Women at Genetic High Risk

Abstract: Genetic counselors might contend that the knowledge derived from the results of genetic testing (GT) for hereditary cancer syndromes is the primary characteristic that makes testing valuable. The knowledge and information gained from GT results inform cancer screening recommendations and potential prophylactic surgeries, as well as who (if anyone) in the patient’s family should also undergo testing. However, less is known about the value of GT as determined through the experiences and perceptions of patients – what I call the ‘folk knowledge’ of GT. This paper will discuss this ‘folk knowledge’ and the value assigned to GT and genetic counseling by women determined to be at high genetic risk for hereditary breast and ovarian cancer. While biomedicine places a premium on technology, how is that technology used and/or perceived by women who are exposed to it? Ethnographic research with women who have undergone testing, and also those who have refused, helps illustrate the ways in which women determine if, and what, kind of value GT has in their perspective.

 

Rebecca Grunzke – Mercer University

Title: Is There a Doctor in the Mouse? Proposing a Cyberethnography of Online Diagnosers

Abstract: In 2008, Microsoft conducted a study of Internet users’ experiences with web searches concerning medical concerns and self-diagnosis. The result was the first systematic study of cyberchondria, defined by researchers Ryen White and Eric Horvitz as the “unfounded escalation of concerns about common symptomatology, based on the review of search results and literature on the Web.” Researchers from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project reported in 2013 that 35 percent of U.S. adults say “they have gone online specifically to try to figure out what medical condition they or someone else might have,” referring to people who search for such medical information on the internet as “online diagnosers” (Fox and Duggan 2013). According to the Pew study, a total of 80 percent of Internet users, or about 93 million Americans, have searched for a health-related topic online, indicating that searching for health or medical information is currently one of the most popular online activities (Weaver 2013). This finding also provides significant support for both increased spending online by the health care industry to reach its consumers and the prediction by technology firm Jupiter Research that “health care companies will spend $1 billion online within the next five years” (Weaver 2013). With an estimated 24 million U.S. residents poised to lose health care coverage by 2026 under the current iteration of the American Health Care Act (Congressional Budget Office 2017), these numbers are likely to increase, much to the chagrin of some medical professionals responding to the trend of online diagnosis, who conclude that many people prefer Google over their doctors for medical advice (Samadi 2016). While attempting to self-diagnose at home and making decisions whether or not to seek a clinicians help are not new, websites giving medical advice are a recent edition to a household’s information resources (Fox and Duggan 2013). The Pew study found that women, younger people, white adults, those from households earning $75,000 or more, and those with a college degree or advanced degrees have a higher likelihood than their counterparts to go online to figure out a possible diagnosis (Fox and Duggan 2013). This study seeks to enhance the demographic and cultural profiles of online diagnosers using the tools of cognitive anthropology and social network analysis to compose a cyberethnography of this growing virtual community. The study’s theoretical orientation will emphasize the interplay between consensus theory and confirmation bias (the tendency for people to confirm what they already believe to be true, even in the face of evidence to the contrary), with particular attention to how each potentially informs the development of cyberchondria.


Do Black and Brown Lives Matter to Anthropology?: Race, Bodies, and Context (3-1225)

Thursday, November 30 – 4:15-6:00pm in Omni, Hampton

– Executive Roundtable Session –

John Jackson (Chair/Roundtable Introducer) – University of Pennsylvania

Norma Mendoza-Denton – University of California, Los Angeles

Aimee Cox – Yale University

Jonathan Rosa – Stanford University

Vanessa Diaz (Organizer) – Dartmouth College

In line with the 2017 AAA theme, “Anthropology matters!,” which invokes #BlackLivesMatter and the movements of other racialized and stigmatized groups, this roundtable offers a space for anthropologists to respond to how anthropology interacts with, strengthens, and/or stifles the movement(s) of people of color and other marginalized populations. More specifically, this roundtable will center around the question anthropologist John Jackson posed in his comments for the roundtable “Ferguson and Beyond” at the AAA 2015 annual meeting: Do Black lives matter to anthropology?

In the time since this provocative question was posed, the lives of Black folks, and people of color more broadly, have remained under attack by U.S. political, legal, and criminal justice systems. As this year’s call for papers asks us to bring panels to the table “that involve investigation, translation, influence, and action” to various parties, including “as an association (AAA and all the sections),” this roundtable offers the opportunity to address if and how anthropology has addressed Jackson’s question. This roundtable will explore various anthropological perspectives on race, the body, and the reality of white supremacy and racial hierarchies that are alive and well within anthropology, academia, and the U.S. on a national level.

By exploring such topics as racialized and gendered labor in the academy, racial profiling in various social realms, raciolinguistic politics, and how popular U.S. culture relates to and perpetuates racial hierarchies, we come together as anthropologists of color to insist that issues of race and racialization be at the forefront of contemporary anthropological inquiry. The panelists will identify the ways in which their research addresses contemporary struggles with inequality, discrimination, and other topics that should matter to anthropology, while at the same time offering examples of the ways in which anthropology as a discipline and AAA as an organization (and its members) can show that these struggles, and the discipline’s own relationship to colonialism and white supremacy do, in fact, matter to anthropology.

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Message from the AAA 2016 Meeting

 

Logo_of_the_American_Anthropological_Association

via Wikimedia Commons

The Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry editorial team sends our greetings this week from the American Anthropological Association 2016 Meeting in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This year’s meeting will be held November 16th-20th, with session listings and other helpful information available here. We hope all of our readers attending the conference have safe travels to– and many productive conversations at– this year’s meeting. As a reminder, we continue to accept guest blog submissions on topics spanning cultural medical anthropology and related disciplines in the social sciences and medical humanities.

Consider submitting an abbreviated version of your AAA conference presentation as a guest blog, or write a commentary on one of the keynote speeches at the event. We look forward to sharing the work and research of our readers with our colleagues on the blog! If you are interested in submitting a guest blog, please contact social media editor Julia Knopes at jcb193@case.edu for details.

As a reminder, there will be no new blog entry posted next Wednesday, November 23rd 2016 in light of the upcoming holiday week.

Best wishes,

The CMP Editorial Team

AAA 2016 Session Highlights: Part 1, Evidence

2016-aaa-annual-mtg-logo-4c-250x286

Image via AAA Website

This is the first in a two-part series spotlighting sessions in medical anthropology at the upcoming 2016 Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA) in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Though not intended to be exhaustive in scope, this series will highlight a selection of sessions at the AAA that may interest our readers and conference attendees. The sessions spotlighted here centered around two themes: evidence (Part 1) and discoveries (Part 2.) These two subjects are also the core themes of this year’s annual meeting. For more information, find details about this year’s conference at this link.


Sessions on “Evidence”: Paper Sessions on the Themes of Knowledges, Certainties, Uncertainties, Evaluation, and Medical Data in Practice

HEGEMONY OF EVIDENCE: THE SHAPING OF KNOWLEDGE AND UNCERTAINTY

Wednesday, November 16th / 4:00 PM – 5:45 PM

Chair: Shannon Satterwhite (University of California, San Francisco)

This session will include papers on biopolitics, medical documentation, certainty and diagnosis, maternal health data collection, and nursing and primary care practices.

AMBIGUITIES OF CERTAINTY: NEGOTIATING KNOWLEDGE AND NAVIGATING THE BOUNDARIES OF EVIDENCE

Thursday, November 17th 8:00 AM – 9:45 AM

Chair: Anna Zogas (University of Washington)

Papers in this session will address health rationalities and socialities, the nature of uncertainty and medical evidence, and the boundaries of medical knowledges.

EVIDENCE? ACCIDENT? DISCOVERY? PSYCHOSIS, MORAL SUBJECTIVITY AND CARE 

Thursday, November 17th 10:15 AM – 12:00 PM

Organizer(s): Neely Myers (Southern Methodist University) and Michael D’Arcy (University of California, Berkeley)

Chair: Lauren Cubellis (Washington University, St Louis)

Discussant: Elizabeth Bromley (University of California, Los Angeles)

In this session, the presenters will explore numerous connections between psychological experiences, illnesses, and clinical evidence.

EVIDENCE AND THE ENDS OF AIDS: SCIENCE, DISCOURSE, AND POLITICS AT THE END OF THE TREATMENT SCALE-UP ERA

Thursday, November 17th 4:00 PM – 5:45 PM

Organizer(s): Nora Kenworthy (University of Washington, Bothell) and  Matthew Thomann (Columbia University)

Chair: Richard Parker (Columbia University)

Discussant: Vinh-Kim Nguyen (Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies Geneva, Switzerland)

Papers in this session will explore global AIDS/HIV landscapes, including the reframing of risk, data, and treatments. They will also consider the ties between science and politics in HIV/AIDS research and global health initiatives.

CLINICAL IMPRESSIONS: REGIMES OF INTERPRETATION AND EVALUATION IN HEALTHCARE

Friday, November 18th 10:15 AM – 12:00 PM

Organizer(s): Adam Baim (University of Chicago), Colin Halverson (University of Chicago)

Chair(s): Talia Weiner (University of Chicago), Miao Hua (University of Chicago)

Discussant: Barry Saunders (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill)

This session will explore how biomedical systems are evaluated, how biomedical practitioners evaluate illness, and how medical evidence and interpretation align in numerous settings.

Blog Archive: Latour’s AAA 2014 Address

In this installment of the blog, we revisit one of our first conference features. This commentary piece examined Bruno Latour’s Distinguished Lecture address at the 2014 Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association in Washington, DC. You can access the original post here.


 

This year at the American Anthropological Association 2014 Meeting, Bruno Latour was invited to deliver the distinguished lecture. Entitled “Anthropology at the Time of the Anthropocene,” Latour discusses the rise in the term anthropocene to describe our current stage of natural history. Although the term makes reference to how “human” (anthro) our current age may be, Latour jests that this term was introduced by geologists, not social scientists. In the anthropocene, it is humans that play the defining role in our geological historical moment.

Logo_of_the_American_Anthropological_Association

via Wikimedia Commons

The assumption, Latour notes, is that human agency is the prime source of action that shapes the physical world. Humans are responsible for climate change, for pollution, for altering the literal, natural fabric of our world. Yet we know that not all humans have the same impact on our environment. As Latour quips, there is not “One Human” who is responsible for the changes we see in our climate or environment. We are simultaneously assessing human power as a plural, collective entity, as well as using this concept to suggest that the blame for global change does not fall evenly across all humans. As anthropologists and cultural theorists, we know how fragile human agency can be when we divide it amongst many contending social and cultural groups.

Is there another way to think about human action that does not problematically configure humans as both collective and individual, acting but not universally accountable for all human actions? Latour posits that rather than focusing solely on agency, with a strong emphasis on human intention and purpose when committing action, we could think instead about animation, or what forces–human and non-human– are in motion in a given social space. To do so, we can no longer assume that the human agent is a colloquial be-all-end-all.

How does this assertion speak to medical anthropology, social medicine, and medical humanities? At first, we might raise our brows at the discussions of geography, environment, and most of all the suspicion surrounding the primacy of human agency. Decentralizing the human agent, we might say, is perhaps the least humanistic approach to the study of human experience. Indeed, medicine is the care of humans by humans!

However, our human ability to question our own power and position in the universe, amidst other natural and non-human forces, is a mark of our species. Whether through philosophy, religion, or social science, humans have a proclivity for ruminating about our place in the material, corporal world. We crave knowledge about what sets us apart from non-human things, and how we are sometimes reliant on them. For scholars of medicine, such inquiries about our relationships with the physical universe is key. We consider the place of non-human agents in disease and care. We ask: why do physicians rely on certain tools? Why do patients see stethoscopes, thermometers, and scalpels as making a clinician legitimate in his or her practice? How are medical traditions made unique by their tools and pharmaceutical formulas? Could the layout of a hospital or clinic itself alter the way care is given?

In an age where technology permeates developed and developing societies, Latour’s suggestion to destabilize human agency is productive when considering medicine as a cultural object. We must think not only of ourselves, but the physical environments we live in and the material objects and devices we cannot seem to live without.

Many scholars understandably resist Latour’s idea that non-humans could have some primitive agency. Yet even if we do not assign agency to non-human tools, things, and environments, thinking seriously about their role in sociocultural systems is informative. Medicine is a lively site of exchange between patients and physicians, as well as practitioners and devices, patients and new medical innovations, and the built environments which house them. As Latour invites us to do, we should pause to consider humans within the midst of a rich material world around us that– like humanity itself– is constantly in motion.

 

AAA 2015 Sessions: Medical and Patient Bodies

This entry is our last in a three-part blog series on the upcoming American Anthropological Association (2015) meeting, to be held in Denver, CO from November 18th-22nd. Here we feature paper sessions on contemporary themes in medical anthropology and social medicine. This year, we showcased sessions on the anthropology of mental health care (read here) and on cultural approaches to food sovereignty and economies, featured last week. In this installment, we highlight three sessions on the theme of the medical and patient body. All sessions are listed chronologically by date and time.

Image via AAA Website

Image via AAA Website

The Politics of Health and Ritual Practices: Ethnographic Perspectives

Wednesday, November 18th from 2:00pm-3:45pm (details here.)

In this session, topics will include: health and religion in Putin’s Russia; rhetoric and biopolitics in local medicines of North India; hypochondria, somatic experience, and psychiatry in Soviet-era Bulgaria; and the implications of mortuary rituals in neoliberal Romania. These papers will particularly interest scholars who study the relationship between body and state, as well as those who examine the intersection of religion, health, and healing practice.

The Biosociocultural Trajectory of Stigma

Sunday, November 22nd from 10:15am-12:00pm (details here.)

Papers in the session will address stigma in the following contexts: methadone treatment in a Moldovan prison; HIV+ identities in intergenerational perspective; changes in HIV/AIDS stigma in Western Kenya; stigma and HIV/AIDS as chronic versus curable; obesity and depression in Puerto Rico; and de-stigmatization in massive weight loss. Through these presentations, the session will posit the medical body at the center of social discourses on stigma, illness, and treatment across cultures.

Micropolitics of Medical Life

Sunday, November 22nd from 10:15am-12:00pm (details here.)

This session spans topics such as: organ donation and the family in Japan; patient-centered approaches to biomedical readmission; infant health in El Salvador; translation and language in medical encounters; ethnographic research on contaminated water exposure and local treatments for infant diarrhea; dialysis and the family unit; and the connections between cells, culture, and knowledge-making. These papers will underscore the cross-cultural ties between body, biology, illness, culture, and daily life.

AAA 2015 Sessions: The Anthropology of Mental Health Care

Beginning last Fall 2014, we began compiling lists of sessions at the Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association that we thought would be of interest to our readers attending the conference. These sessions included topics such as drug use and abuse, reproductive medicine, and global health. This year, we again feature our series on the upcoming conference, to be held November 18-22 in Denver, Colorado (more information here.) You can also browse last week’s installment of the blog, where we highlighted sessions on biomedicine and the body at the upcoming Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) meeting, also in Denver, to be held November 11-14 (details here.) This week, we present three paper sessions on the anthropology of mental health care. The sessions are organized chronologically by time and date.

Image via AAA Website

Image via AAA Website

Re-Institutionalizing Care: Anthropological Engagements with Mental Health Courts and Alternative Forensic Psychiatry Interventions in North America

Saturday, November 21st 10:15am-12:00pm (details about this session.)

Topics in this session will include racial disparities in a mental health court in Canada; the relationship between criminal justice officials, psychiatric crisis, and mental health; dogma and psychiatry; and mental health care reform. The session lists itself as particularly of note to applied and practicing anthropologists, especially those with an interest in mental health care, policy, and reform.

From the Streets to the Asylum: Medicalizing Vulnerable Children

Saturday, November 21st 10:15am-12:00pm (details about this session.)

This session includes work on the following topics: humanitarian care and child homelessness in Cairo, Egypt; drug use and treatment amongst juvenile prisoners in Brazil; immigrant youth and mental health in France; and notions of American childhood in the context of mental health. Though the session is sponsored by the Anthropology of Children and Youth Interest Group, its topics overlap with many contemporary issues in medical anthropology and the social study of mental health care.

Making Sense of Mental Health Amidst Rising Rural Social Inequality in North America: Class, Race, and Identity in Treatment-Seeking

Saturday, November 21st, 1:45pm-3:30pm (details about this session.)

Presenters in this session will speak on these issues: mental health and poverty in rural New England; mental health and prescription drug abuse in Appalachia; citizenship and mental health in Oklahoma; care access in remote Alaskan communities; community mental health activism; and inequity and depression in rural Kentucky. These sessions will be of interest to scholars of social justice and medicine, as well as those studying mental health care access and the culture of psychiatry in the United States.

AAA 2014: Perspectives on the Bruno Latour Distinguished Lecture

This year at the American Anthropological Association 2014 Meeting, Bruno Latour was invited to deliver the distinguished lecture. Entitled “Anthropology at the Time of the Anthropocene,” Latour discusses the rise in the term anthropocene to describe our current stage of natural history. Although the term makes reference to how “human” (anthro) our current age may be, Latour jests that this term was introduced by geologists, not social scientists. In the anthropocene, it is humans that play the defining role in our geological historical moment.

The assumption, Latour notes, is that human agency is the prime source of action that shapes the physical world. Humans are responsible for climate change, for pollution, for altering the literal, natural fabric of our world. Yet we know that not all humans have the same impact on our environment. As Latour quips, there is not “One Human” who is responsible for the changes we see in our climate or environment. We are simultaneously assessing human power as a plural, collective entity, as well as using this concept to suggest that the blame for global change does not fall evenly across all humans. As anthropologists and cultural theorists, we know how fragile human agency can be when we divide it amongst many contending social and cultural groups.

Our blog editor at the Latour Distinguished Lecture

Our blog editor at the Latour Distinguished Lecture

Is there another way to think about human action that does not problematically configure humans as both collective and individual, acting but not universally accountable for all human actions? Latour posits that rather than focusing solely on agency, with a strong emphasis on human intention and purpose when committing action, we could think instead about animation, or what forces–human and non-human– are in motion in a given social space. To do so, we can no longer assume that the human agent is a colloquial be-all-end-all.

How does this assertion speak to medical anthropology, social medicine, and medical humanities? At first, we might raise our brows at the discussions of geography, environment, and most of all the suspicion surrounding the primacy of human agency. Decentralizing the human agent, we might say, is perhaps the least humanistic approach to the study of human experience. Indeed, medicine is the care of humans by humans!

However, our human ability to question our own power and position in the universe, amidst other natural and non-human forces, is a mark of our species. Whether through philosophy, religion, or social science, humans have a proclivity for ruminating about our place in the material, corporal world. We crave knowledge about what sets us apart from non-human things, and how we are sometimes reliant on them. For scholars of medicine, such inquiries about our relationships with the physical universe is key. We consider the place of non-human agents in disease and care. We ask: why do physicians rely on certain tools? Why do patients see stethoscopes, thermometers, and scalpels as making a clinician legitimate in his or her practice? How are medical traditions made unique by their tools and pharmaceutical formulas? Could the layout of a hospital or clinic itself alter the way care is given?

In an age where technology permeates developed and developing societies, Latour’s suggestion to destabilize human agency is productive when considering medicine as a cultural object. We must think not only of ourselves, but the physical environments we live in and the material objects and devices we cannot seem to live without.

Many scholars understandably resist Latour’s idea that non-humans could have some primitive agency. Yet even if we do not assign agency to non-human tools, things, and environments, thinking seriously about their role in sociocultural systems is informative. Medicine is a lively site of exchange between patients and physicians, as well as practitioners and devices, patients and new medical innovations, and the built environments which house them. As Latour invites us to do, we should pause to consider humans within the midst of a rich material world around us that– like humanity itself– is constantly in motion.

Julia Balacko is a second-year PhD student in medical anthropology at Case Western Reserve University. She holds an MA in Humanities from the University of Chicago. Her research focuses on the culture of human anatomy and dissection in Western medical traditions, as well as public access to anatomical and pathological specimens.


Note on the presenter:

Bruno Latour is professor at the Sciences Po Paris in Paris, France. A central theorist in STS (science and technology studies), he is the author of We Have Never Been Modern (1991), Science in Action (1987) and Laboratory Life (1979).

You can read the full text of Latour’s lecture here: http://www.bruno-latour.fr/sites/default/files/139-AAA-Washington.pdf