Imagining Immunity

Brooklyn Institute for Social Research, Winter 2016

Immunity is a concept with three parallel lives. Historically, scientific measurements and presumptions about immune status have been used to justify political projects of exclusion and oppression. Rhetorically, immunity gets used as a metaphor for how to distinguish “us” from “them.” Practically, we now live in an age when scientists and lay people alike tinker with the immunity of crowds, children, and selves to improve health and safety using technologies from manufactured molecules to microscopic critters. Selected scientific and historical readings about immunity will ground this class in concrete practices and events. Michel Foucault’s concept of biopolitics and key essays from Science and Technology Studies (STS) scholars Bruno Latour and Paul Rabinow will anchor the theoretical perspective of this class. Through our investigation of the multiple lives of immunity, this class will explore how the strategic deployment of scientific knowledge and medico-technological practices animates a biopolitical understanding of society and embeds modern biomedicine in every aspect of social life.