April 19 | Food For Thought’s Unequal Healthscapes in California’s “Biohub”

Wednesday, April 19th
5:30-7:30 pm
Namaste Lounge

Hosted by the College Nine and Ten CoCurricular Programs Office, SJRC Assistant Director, Kate Weatherford Darling will present her research centering social justice and health inequalities in the discussion of biomedicine and US healthcare and policy. Asking the question: What would it take to build new California “healthscapes” (Clarke 2010) with visions of disability justice and health equity?

Unequal Healthscapes in California’s “Biohub”

California’s recent Tech Boom buoyed the Bay Area economy and transformed the political geography of the state and a global center of wealth. Venture capital / philanthropic investment along with public policies to promote “entrepreneurism” are rapidly changing the spaces, places of biomedical science and healthcare practice. In this talk, Kate offers an incomplete map of our unequal “healthscapes” (Clarke 2010), the cultural, economic and political terrains of health. Drawing on findings from her current and forthcoming research, she asks: What would it take to build new California healthscapes with visions of disability justice and health equity?

Katherine Weatherford Darling is Assistant Director at the Science and Justice Research Center and faculty in UCSC Sociology Department. Her research and teaching bridges Sociology of Health, Illness and Disability and Feminist Science Studies. Her current projects span diverse topics including: Post-Genomic epidemiology and HIV/AIDS science and health policy in the U.S. With UCSC and Bay Area collaborators, her new projects examine how the social and built environments of Bay Area’s tech and biotech economies are impacting the health of low-income Californians.

Flyer for Food for Thought

Flyer for Food for Thought

Apr 20 | Digital Dreams and Their Discontents: Where do we go from here?

Wednesday, April 20, 2016 | 4:00 – 5:30PM | SJRC Common Room (Oakes 231)

A conversation with Erin McElroy (PhD Candidate, Feminist Studies, UCSC) and Sara Tocchetti (SJRC Visiting Scholar, Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre Alexandre Koyré, Paris, France).

Erin McElroy on the Digital Nomad

With the emergence of Silicon Valley’s “Tech Boom 2.0,” so too has emerged the figure of the “digital nomad”—a type of transient technologic worker tethered to Silicon Valley corporations yet able to embody new mobilities vis-à-vis the globalization of high-speed fiber-optics and sharing economy infrastructure. From San Francisco to new global outposts such as Romania, which boasts the world’s fifth fastest internet speed due to postsocialist technologic economization, the arrival of the digital nomad often incites contexts of gentrification, manifesting as increased rental prices, eviction rates, and forced homelessness/nomadism. Critical of this correlation as well as formative histories of nomadic racial fantasy, I also question what other uses of digital technology, such as that of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, emerge not just to critique technologies of displacement, but also to fight for other futures of the digital?

Erin McElroy is a Doctoral Student in Feminist Studies at UC Santa Cruz and cofounder/director of the Anti-Eviction Mapping Project, a digital cartography and oral history collective documenting the ecology of “Tech Boom” induced gentrification. McElroy brings a spatial analysis and collective ethos to their research, which studies materializations and histories of dispossessive technologies in Romania, employing ethnography, literary/cultural analysis, and archival work, and utilizing postsocialist analytics and feminist science and technology studies. McElroy holds a MA in Cultural Anthropology from CIIS and a BA in Cultural Studies from Hampshire College, and is an active anti-eviction organizer with Eviction Free San Francisco.

Sara Tocchetti on DIYbio and the Possibility of Critical Life Sciences

Drawing from the analogy with the personal computer and other personalized technologies, DIYbio members envision biology and biotechnology as a creative and personal technology to be made available to everyone. Such ideology of a ‘personal biology’ can be understood as a variation of ‘digital utopianism’ and seems especially attractive for young and/or disenfranchised students and researchers. Working through several case studies of DIYbio initiatives and engaging with a general sense of enthusiasm for such practices expressed in the STS literature, this presentation questions what type of critical space does digital utopianism occupies in the life sciences and STS and what forms of alternative practices we might need to recollect and/or imagine.

Sara Tocchetti recently received her PhD from the London School of Economics working on the DIYbio network, socio-technical utopias, theories of technology driven social change, and her own professional identity. Feeling stuck as an ex-biologist-not-yet turned into a science and technology studies scholar, she has moved on to study the history and present of radical science movements and is currently based at the Centre Alexandre Koyré in Paris on an Early Post-doc Scholarship from the Swiss National Fund. Her recent publications includes Is an FBI Agent a DIY Biologist Like Any Other? A Cultural Analysis of a Biosecurity Risk (Tocchetti and Aguiton, 2015) and Quelles tactiques critiques sur le terrain des promesses scientifiques [Which critical tactics in the field of scientific promises] (Aguiton, Bovet and Tocchetti, 2015).

Apr 22 | Fixing the Pathological Body

The medical industry leans heavily upon a distinction between the "normal" and the "pathological." How and why do we continue to define this distinction, and for whom are these categories useful?  What are some alternative ways to organize the lived experiences of human bodies and/or minds?

A Panel Discussion with Janette Dinishak (Assistant Professor of Philosophy at UCSC) Kelly Ormond (Professor of Genetics and Genetic Counselor at Stanford University) Matthew Wolf-Meyer (Associate Professor of Anthropology at UCSC and author of The Sleeping Masses).Organized by Science & Justice Training Program Fellows Sandra Harvey (Politics), Linda Dayem (Philosophy) and Jessica Neasbitt (History of Consciousness). Co-Sponsored by UCSC Departments of History of Consciousness, Literature, and Philosophy, as well as the Institute for Humanities Research.

Janette Dinishak is an Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the University of California, Santa Cruz. Her research interests include philosophy and history of psychology and psychiatry (especially autism), Wittgenstein, philosophy of mind, disability, and ethical theory.

Kelly Ormond is a Professor of Genetics at the Stanford School of Medicine. While Ormond's primary role is to direct the MS in Human Genetics and Genetic Counseling program, her research focuses on the intersection between genetics and ethics, particularly around the translation of new genetic technologies (such as genome sequencing or non-invasive prenatal diagnosis) into clinical practice. She is especially interested in patient decision making, informed consent, and the interface between genetics and disability.

Matthew Wolf-Meyer is an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He received his Ph.D. from the Department of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota, specializing in medical anthropology, the social study of science and technology, and neuroscience. He is author of The Slumbering Masses: Sleep, Medicine and Modern American Life (UMN Press, 2012), which focuses on sleep in American culture and its historical and contemporary relations to capitalism. His second book, What Matters: The Politics of American Brains, focuses on the ethical and epistemological practices in contemporary neuroscience, cybernetics, disability activism, and psychoanalysis in American society. Currently he is in the early stage of a new project focused on the neurological turn to the gut as an extension of the nervous system, the history of shit in the United States, and the therapeutic uses of human excrement in modern medicine.

April 22, 2015

"Fixing the Pathological Body"
SJWG Rapporteur Report
22 April 2015
Rapporteur Report by Jess Neasbitt
This event was organized to begin what we hoped would be ongoing discussions that addressed
themes and questions like the following: "The medical industry leans heavily upon a distinction
between the "normal" and the "pathological." How and why do we continue to define this
distinction, and for whom are these categories useful? What are some alternative ways to
organize the lived experiences of human bodies and/or minds?" We invited Drs. Dinishak and
Wolf-Meyer and Professor Ormond to introduce their research and engage in a panel discussion
regarding these questions, as well as those asked by the audience.

After a brief introduction of the panelists and the overall event theme by Jessica Neasbitt, Dr.
Dinishak spoke about her interest in issues surrounding “deficit attribution.” She forwarded this
model as a specific form of pathologizing difference, and encouraged the audience to consider
what (or whose) standard is being used to assess the lack, or absence of a feature that a person
“should have,” that is a hallmark of “deficit attribution.” Dr. Dinishak is interested in calling the
moral complacency surrounding this decision into question, as well as bringing the narratives of
the pathologized into the conversation. This led to a brief overview of her research regarding the
narratives of autists, which involves qualitative interviews, and speaks to her stated commitment
to finding responsible approaches to engage in such research in ways that acknowledge subjects
as “not just objects to study.” Instead, Dr. Dinishak encouraged the audience to consider what the
narratives of autists can teach us about the lived experience of those labeled autistic, the cultural
representation of these individuals, and what their (autists) concerns might be.

Following Dr. Dinishak, Professor Ormond discussed how disability is talked about in genetic
counseling. Building off of Dr. Dinishak’s talk, she mentioned the challenge of mixing lived
experiences of people with disabilities with discussions of risk assessment during counseling
sessions. She is interested in starting conversations that focus more on the former than on the
medical aspects of potential conditions a fetus may develop in order to move past parental fear
and into a space of more expansive possibility. Professor Ormond stated that, at the present time,
potential parents most commonly focus on the medical aspects of potential disorders/disabilities
over the lived experiences of those diagnosed with them, and this often leads them to constrain
their choices to either abortion or bringing the baby to term and keeping it (versus adoption and
other possible options).

Dr. Wolf-Meyer also discussed social fixes in contrast to medicalization, and gave examples
from his para-ethnographic work. Most of his examples involved the tendency to medicate rather
than seek social fixes, which often require the rethinking—and perhaps radical changing—of
powerful institutions. The influence of capitalism was a recurrent theme, not only during Dr.
Wolf-Meyer’s presentation, but throughout the panel discussion and the question and answer
period; however, the “normalization” required of subjects in capitalist societies was integral to
several key aspects of Dr. Wolf-Meyer’s talk. Among these were: the increase of medical and
pharmaceutical interventions to make individual bodies “fit” into existing social systems and the
dramatic decrease of any social “safety net” (public assistance for persons with disabilities).
The individual, and the individualization of responsibility, were recurrent themes throughout the
event—especially in relation to the influence of capitalism on the practice of medicine in the
United States. Many attendees questioned panelists on whether or not their proposed
interventions into these practices and/or institutions were realistic, given the tenacious hold of
capitalism and its current rigid practices. While there were some small-scale examples of
successful interventions given (communal living, alternative clinics that evaluate social fixes as
well as medical ones), this was the extent of the discussion, and—given more time—this would
be a fascinating avenue to continue exploring.

Another topic in which the concept of the individual loomed large was the genome. There were
several audience comments and questions regarding the power of the genome and the ease with
which risk scores that describe possible futures transition into labels that dictate identities. This
tied in with the parental fear that Professor Ormond had discussed earlier, and the question was
asked: Is fear a necessary part of medical care? Professor Ormond reiterated that this was one of
the limitations of genetic counseling, that there is no “gene for” (it is not as clear cut as that), and
that this is one of the reasons why she believes that discussions with genetic counselors might be
better framed in terms of “abnormal-normal, risk-chance.”

Most of the remainder of audience questions and comments can be divided into two categories:
those focused on the role of the history of eugenics and race in regard to processes of
pathologization, and those focused on the terminology used by the panelists. The history of
eugenics was mentioned by one panelist—Professor Ormond credited it as contributing to how
genetic counseling happens today. However, there were several excellent questions that brought
up the possibility that genetic counseling may be contributing to current eugenicist practices,
especially in relation to abortion of fetuses that are at increased risk for particular pathologized
conditions. While there was some further discussion of the relation of race, eugenics, and
pathologization, we were again limited by the format and time constraints of the event; however,
we all agree that this is an area of rich possibility for further events to explore.

Audience questions regarding the terminology used by the panelists were extensive, and also
limited by available time. Overall, these questions focused on the terms used to describe those
persons being pathologized, and why these specific words were chosen. Questions about the use
of the following terms were recorded: difference vs. deficiency, disorderly vs. disabled, disorder
vs. condition, atypical vs. abnormal, variance vs. diversity, and risk vs. chance vs. diagnosis. The
length and breadth of this list suggest yet another subject that could feasibly support its own
panel discussion; at the very least, it should be addressed in any future events planned as an
outgrowth of our event.

Our initial vision for this event was to begin a conversation regarding what work pathologization
does, and for whom. Overall, we agree that this panel was a good start to what we envisioned as
an ongoing dialogue, and we—along with our critical listeners, Jeff Sherman and Jen Trinh—
have many ideas as to aspects of our theme that future events might explore. These include
narratives and counter-narratives of pathologization, the role of institutions in pathologization
(and how this might be addressed), late capitalism and pathologization (especially regarding the
concept of “productive” bodies and the commercialization of pathology), disability activism, and
the history of pathologization—particularly in regards to race and eugenics. All of these topics
came up in one form or another during our event, and we all agree that the format of the event
severely limited our ability to allow the in-depth examination of any one of these rich lines of
questioning. However, these are topics that we think merit exploration and would make for
future events that would both continue the discussion that began during our event and interest a
wide variety of individuals and groups on campus and in the surrounding community.

As to the possible forms the continuation of this discussion might take, there are several that we
would like to forward. First (and most ambitious), we would like to suggest that, given the easy
division of our overall theme into the sub-topics mentioned above, a conference (or other multipanel
event) on this theme would be both one way to continue this discussion and have many of
the people who should be represented “at the table.” Regardless of the format of the event, we all
agree that future speakers must include disability rights activists, community members, and
narratives of pathologization that originate from the pathologized themselves. Suggestions for
future speakers included Mia Mingus and Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha; we also
acknowledge that more outreach and collaboration with the disability studies community on
campus should have been part of our process, and would highly benefit any future events that
stem from our event.

Other suggestions for keeping the discussion going dovetail nicely with the stated desire of the
Science and Justice Research Center for achieving more of an online presence. These include a
series of blogs (some of which would be guest authored), a series of podcasts and/or an interview
series, and a moderated online forum on the topic. The growing number of scholars working on
related themes on this campus, the presence of a healthy activist community (both on campus
and in the community), and the upcoming History of Consciousness concentration of
“Differences Now” all point to there being a good deal of interest in—and potential for joint
sponsorship of—a variety of events that could further the discussion that began during “Fixing
the Pathological Body” in new and innovative ways, and we look forward to seeing where this
discussion goes next.

In closing, Jessica, Linda and Sandra would like to thank our generous co-sponsors, without
which this event would not have been possible: the departments of History of Consciousness,
Literature, and Philosophy, the Institute for Humanities Research, and the Science and Justice
Research Center. We would also like to thank our critical listeners (Jeff Sherman and Jen Trinh)
for their time and extremely helpful feedback. To our panelists, Dr. Janette Dinishak, Professor
Kelly Ormond, and Dr. Matthew Wolf-Meyer, we wish to extend our sincere gratitude for your
participation and inspiring discussion, which we envision as the beginning of a much needed
exploration of the work, histories, and purposes of pathologization.

There were approximately 26 attendees, the majority of whom hailed from the social sciences.
The remainder of the attendees were from the sciences and the community.

Trust in Genomics: A challenge for scientists and ethicists alike

Access to data and the quality of data depend partially on the quality of trust between physicians, researchers and many different patients.  When trust breaks down, patients and research subjects may request that their samples be withdrawn, or they may not provide samples and data in the first place. Technological developments that enable biomedical institutions to bank vast quantities of tissues and data today introduce new challenges to this critical project of creating and maintaining trust.  Any tissue now given for research or routine medical care technically could be used for an indefinite amount of time for entirely unforeseen purposes. In such a situation, it is hard to say that anyone understands what they are consenting to, even the researchers and physicians collecting samples and running trials.  Under these conditions, trust based in mutual understanding faces new challenges.

How to address these novel challenges will be at the center of the Science & Justice Working Group meeting on April 16, 2014, “Trust in Genomics: A Problem of Knowledge and Ethics”, 4:00-6:00PM in Engineering 2 599 on the UCSC campus. In this discussion, respected medical geneticist Wylie Burke (University Washington) and cultural anthropologist and bioethicist Barbara Koenig (UCSF) will share their experiences working with biobanks, researchers and patients to build better data sets by attending to matters of trust and respect.

Dr. Barbara Koenig, professor of medical anthropology and bioethics in the UCSF School of Nursing, is the co-Director of a newly launched research institute at UCSF dedicated to understanding the ethical, legal and social implications of translational medical genomics, The Center for Transdisciplinary ELSI Research in Translational Genomics (CT2G). By bringing together a broad, multidisciplinary range of expertise, CT2G is endeavoring to ask, and answer, questions about how genomic information will be used in a manner that benefits researchers, patients and broader publics. “A decade after the human genome was fully mapped,” Koenig argues, “figuring out how to translate genomic findings into prevention and clinical care has become a public health priority.”

Dr. Wylie Burke, Professor of Bioethics and Humanities at the University of Washington and Principal Investigator of the University of Washington Center for Genomics and Healthcare Equality, co-authored an article in Science (Trinidad et al., 2011) that highlighted the potential benefits of approaching consent (and re-consent) as an opportunity to engage with donors beyond legal formalities. She and her co-authors examine the downstream consequences of not thoroughly consenting donors for the use of their biological materials and data. Drawing on cases that have appeared in the headlines, such as the sequencing of the HeLa cell line, they examine the wide range of opinions about how best to protect patient privacy and dignity in an age when even experts cannot anticipate how biological samples might be used in the near future. In the article, they propose that “researchers and IRBs consider how the informed consent process could be used to foster respectful engagement, rather than merely mitigate risk.”

This discussion is the second in a series of discussions that the SJRC is hosting on Data Justice (see Science and Justice in an Age of Big Data: A Conversation with Peter Yu and David Haussler for a description of the first meeting held on January 22, 2014).  The meeting is co-sponsored by the Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology, the Center for Biomolecular Sciences and Engineering, and the GENECATS and CANCERCATS research groups.

April 16, 2014 | Engineering 2 Room 599    


"Trust in Genomics: A challenge for scientists and ethicists alike"

SJWG Rapporteur Report

16 April 2014

Rapporteur Report by Lizzy Hare

This event was the second in a series of discussions that the Science & Justice Research

Center is hosting on Data Justice. This working group meeting brought medical geneticist Wylie

Burke (University of Washington) and cultural anthropologist and bioethicist Barbara Koenig

(University of California San Francisco) into conversation with Science & Justice Center

Director Jenny Reardon and David Haussler (Director of the UCSC Center for Biomolecular

Science and Engineering). Drs. Burke and Koenig shared their experiences working with

biobanks, researchers and patients to build better data sets by attending to matters of trust and

respect. Matters of trust were central to the first Working Group meeting on Data Justice that

was held in January of 2014. The goal of this meeting was to extend that conversation and

explore those issues more fully.

Jenny Reardon’s introduction provided an overview of some of the concerns that the

Working Group hoped to pursue with the Data Justice series and this event in particular.

Wylie Burke started the discussion by talking about the University of Washington’s

(UW) “biotrust” efforts. They are seeking to collect clinical samples and health information as

patients receive care at affiliated institutions. UW consulted with ethicists during the

development of this biobank and the result was an opt-in process rather than the opt-out format

that most institutions use. In order to explain how UW’s biotrust efforts are distinct from others,

she explained the case of a five site research consortia that was seeking to understand to what

extent data in electronic records could determine phenotypes for genetic research. Once the

research was completed, the funder required that the health and genomic data be sent to a central

repository. UW was the only one of the five sites where the Institutional Review Board (IRB)

required that they seek additional consent from patients, arguing that sending information to a

federal repository was of a different order of magnitude the research that had been specified in

the original consent forms. Burke and her colleagues were able to gain extra funds to survey

people about how they felt about the reconsent, and overwhelmingly they wanted to be asked and

did not see it as a nuisance.

Barbara Koenig wanted to turn the conversation away from trust and towards

trustworthiness, which places the onus on the institution to be worthy of the trust of patients and

the community. While working at the Mayo clinic, Koenig was a part of the same research

consortia as Burke. The Mayo clinic had used a 3-way checkbox consent form that had been

considered sufficient by the IRB, but the clinic ultimately decided that the form was insufficient.

The clinic took the issue to their community advisory board, and that board decided that it was

acceptable notify patients and allow them to opt out rather than go through the process of

reconsent. Koenig referred to the act of consulting with a community advisory board as

“deliberative community engagement”, and the strategies are based on deliberative democracy.

The goal is to bring individuals who represent the community together to discuss data

governance. This method will not replace informed consent, but will enrich it, because consent

alone might not be sufficient to deal with future obligations and findings.

David Haussler joined the conversation and voiced his concern with establishing trust for

large, global alliances through local efforts like those that Koenig and Burke had discussed.

Haussler believes that large data sets collected through international collaborations are necessary

for understanding complex problems such as cancer and inherited diseases. He was excited by

the conversation at this meeting because he’s been working as a part of the Global Alliance (an

international effort to share genomic data) and they have been having a tremendous issue with

establishing trustworthiness. Burke and Koenig reiterated that trust needs to start locally, and

that local procedures need to cover rules about access to data, even if that information will be

used as a part of a global research effort.

The central issue seems to be a lack of agreement on how much data could be shared, and

where that information would be stored. Restricting access might make the process and the

institutions involved more trustworthy for community members and patients, but restricting

access prevents creativity and potentially groundbreaking uses, as well as raising concerns about

who is able to determine access to the information. Jenny mentioned the adage “information

wants to be free”, but our worlds have borders and those borders allow us to make decisions

about which values count in a particular place. Jake Metcalf reminded us that there is a second

part to this famous adage, and that is that information wants to be free, but it also wants to be

expensive. In our quickness to speak of information as something that has a will and desires to

freedom, we tend to ignore the infrastructures that are required to share that information and to

allow its use.

When Does Personhood Begin? The Science and the Rhetoric

Renowned developmental biologist Scott Gilbert (Swarthmore) joins us to discuss the science and rhetoric of personhood from a cross-disciplinary perspective. The argument that a potential human adult should be given the status of "person" from the moment of conception is being frequently made by people who wish to make abortion and human stem cell research illegal. While "personhood" is a cultural and not a scientific category, biology is often being used to justify such claims. Biologists, however, have not reached consensus on this issue, and this talk will discuss some of the places where different groups of biologists have claimed "personhood" begins. These include fertilization, individuation/gastrulation (when the embryo can no longer form twins), the acquisition of the human-specific EEG pattern, and birth. The rhetoric surrounding the fertilization issue concerns the photographs of prenatal life and the cultural representation of DNA as our soul or essence.

Cosponsored by the Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology Department

November 13, 2012 | 4:00-6:00 PM |Engineering 2, Room 599

Scott Gilbert, "When Does Personhood Begin?: The Science and the Rhetoric"
SJWG Rapporteur Report
13 November 2012
Rapporteur: Martha Kenney, History of Consciousness
Scott Gilbert (Swarthmore) spoke to us about public misconceptions about the science of when
life begins. He adapted this talk from an invited presentation he gave at The Vatican in 2007. He
raised a number of erroneous “facts” that give people the impression that scientists support the
idea that life and therefore personhood begins at fertilization. For example, many people believe
that all the instructions for development and heredity are already present in a fertilized egg.
More broadly DNA is often presented as tantamount to a “soul” or “essence.” To illustrate this
point Gilbert showed us car ads that were predicated on a deterministic concept of DNA. A
Toyota, for example, was advertised as having “a great set of genes.” In order to counter this
myth, Gilbert described new research from epigenetics and microbiome biology that shows many
of our fundamental bodily and behavioral characterizes are determined by the environment, not
just by genes.

He also discussed the misconception that an embryo is an autonomous entity and fully protected
inside the womb, explaining that for every 20 eggs fertilized only 6.2 become a fetus (at 8
weeks). Furthermore teratogenic compounds threaten fetal development and viability (Gilbert
argued that reducing teratogenic compounds in the environment might be a common project for
people on both sides of the abortion debate). The popularity of Lennart Nilsson’s photographs of
fetuses (actually abortuses) contributes to the misconception that fetuses are autonomous entities
by showing them floating outside of a woman’s body. The final myth that Gilbert addressed is
that scientists agree when personhood begins; there is, in fact, no such consensus and, he argued
that the question of personhood may not be a scientific question at all. However, Gilbert felt that
science does have something important to say about embryo/fetus development, which should
not be misconstrued in public discourse.

During the Q&A period Jenny Reardon wondered how biologists can participate in debates
around abortion and embryo research without calling upon science as the authoritative discourse.
I.e. “Science says x, therefore x.” Martha Kenney followed up on this question by asking
Gilbert: “If you consider images that are contributing the public discourse about embryo research
and abortion to be scientifically misleading, what images do you feel better represents your
knowledge of embryos and fetuses that is grounded in your own experience as a developmental
biologist.” Gilbert described a “gorgeous” colored MRI image he used for the front cover of his
textbook Developmental Biology; he explained that he had to keep telling the publishers to zoom
out on the image so that the fetus would not appear to be floating in space. Listening to Gilbert’s
passion for this image offered us a way to think out of the “science says” dilemma and into a way
of doing a politics of representation from within our professional practices. Donna Haraway
commented that a central problem with the abortion debates was that both sides want to ensure
that persons were protected from death. She argued that death is not the greatest tragedy and that
we need to learn how to kill well (not just protect life). For Haraway, the politics were not (only)
in getting the science right, not only in the images and rhetoric we traffic in, but the ways that
entities are protected and made killable within these moral and scientific discourses. The Q&A
period opened up Gilbert’s talk beyond the question of what science has to say in the abortion
and embryo research debates, to wider questions of representation, ethics, and epistemic
authority in a complex social and scientific landscape.

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.