I’m working on several projects right now, and one thing that ties my approach to all of them together is concern about the narrative frameworks we use to talk about science, technology, and progress. Three books I’ve read this fall are grounding my thoughts about the narrative challenges of storytelling in our technoscientific world.
Why do emergency medications cost so much? One answer lies in examining how financial industry stakeholders and influencers shape decision making of the people in charge of pharmaceutical sales and development.
Why does Mylan’s EpiPen cost so much? Read my early-stage reflections on the matter over at Somatosphere in a recent blog post.
Recent work in science studies has identified the use of “drugs for life” (Dumit 2012) – drugs which are necessary to sustain life and which also must be taken for the duration of life to have the desired effect – as a dominant trend in today’s biomedical toolkit. What has sometimes been overlooked are the everyday technologies of the self that coexist with these novel pharmaceutical regimens, like eating. The 4S panel, “Eating For Life: When Food Is the Best Medicine,” seeks to explore the intentional and incidental ways that dietary management is used to augment or stand in for pharmaceutical approaches to the maintenance of the human body.
Informed by Marxist theory, feminism, and science studies, this class interrogates how drugs – both engineered pharmaceuticals and pleasurably addictive illegal substances – gain and reproduce their power in our social life. As total health expenditures approach 20% of American GDP, and drugs become dynamic components of everyday life, understanding the personal experience and political economy of these compounds is more crucial than ever.
Join me in Jersey City for the Brooklyn Institute’s first Jersey class at Word Bookstore!
Donna Haraway argues in her canonical essay, “A Manifesto For Cyborgs,” that to be a cyborg means to live in a world without tidy origin stories or innocent wholeness. Instead, it is about partial connections, complex kinship with humans, non-humans, and machines, and an acceptance of the messiness that it takes to get along better together. Using this formulation of cyborg theory as a jumping off point, this seminar will explore what it means to live in our modern world where myths of human-machine synthesis prefigure our attitudes toward technology and the future, the responsibility of humans toward non-humans and the environment, capitalist accumulation, and oppression based on gender, race, and class.
Are you an graduate student writing about science, technology, and medicine in an anthropologically-informed way? If so, check out the … More
Over a career spanning four decades, philosopher of science Donna Haraway has revolutionized how social theorists and technoscience practitioners understand the situated objectivity of scientific knowledge, with special attention to the ways in which technoscience assigns biological meaning to social categories of gender. While Haraway is most famously associated with Cyborg Theory, this course will offer students an opportunity to survey the full scope of her oeuvre, including those works that draw on Marxist feminist theory, philosophy of science, and multispecies concerns.
What does it take to build an infrastructural system? What kind of norms do infrastructures enforce, and what kinds of people do they allow to thrive? What happens when infrastructure starts to break down, or prove inadequate in the face of disaster? What do infrastructures teach us? And what kind of world do they make possible? This four-week seminar pulls back the curtain to reveal the people, processes, and values that shape the infrastructures of modern life, and how these systems simultaneously provide opportunities for and place constraints on social life.
Listening to my early research interviews can be fun. It can also be embarrassing.
For example, one question I asked in early interviews was: “What’s the treatment for food allergies?”
Now, I know that I should have asked, what medications do you use to manage food allergies? That’s what I was interested in: learning about what pills, injections, and other medical products people use to maintain their health while living with food allergies.
What happens when pharmaceuticals overflow the boundaries imposed by regulatory structures, carrier materials, and places and methods of production? What new risks–to bodies and environments–appear in an increasingly pharmaceuticalized world? What new social lives do drugs take on when used outside of their usage scripts, after expiration, or when they are cut, mixed, and remade into new types of drugs?
What happens in the lives of individuals and to their relationship to biomedical expertise when food is the best medicine?
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.
Why is it so fun to get angry at Martin Shkreli and Turing Pharmaceuticals’ drug pricing policies? Read my take in my guest feature essay on the anthropology and STS blog Somatosphere: Why Does Everyone Hate Martin Shkreli?
In communities where deadly infectious childhood diseases have largely retreated, food allergies have taken their place as a medico-moral cause célèbre for mothers, medical workers, and medical researchers seeking ensure the safety of innocent children. Their mysterious etiology – a combination of environmental exposure, heredity, and individual biology – unpredictable development, apparently sudden increase, and potentially deadly effects make them a source of fear for parents worldwide.