Modelling pigs and humans: Exploring the practices of models across sciences

Wednesday October 19, 2011

Engineering 2, Room 599

PhD Fellow Vibeke Pihl, Medical Centre for Science and Technology Studies, Department of Public Health, University of Copenhagen.

Vibeke Pihl’s research addresses how connections between humans and animals are shaped in contemporary biomedical research on human health. During an ethnographic multi-sited fieldwork, Vibeke has followed a group of Danish biomedical researchers working to establish a pig model for human obesity surgery. In biomedicine, the pig is increasingly established as a preferred model organism in biomedical research on human obesity due to an argued biological resemblance between pigs and human anatomy and physiology. The topic of the SJWG event concerns an analysis of how the use of pigs as models for humans does not rest solely on biological connections, but requires social, moral, economical and cultural connections to support the choice of the pig as the appropriate model for obese human bodies. In addition, the presentation will address how models are practised in biomedical science and social science. Drawing upon fieldwork, the presentation will focus on how the analysis of the biomedical researchers’ establishment of a pig model prompt a simultaneous crafting of a social scientific model of human-animal relations. Vibeke asks which connections between humans and pigs are included and excluded in the research practices of biomedical scientists’ and the practices of social scientists like her own. With this presentation, Vibeke wants to provide an opening for a stronger mutual engagement between researchers across sciences working with animals as models of humans.

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