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Images as evidence (of what)? The Body at the Intersection of Science and Art

23. Sep­tem­ber – 26. Sep­tem­ber 2024 

Vien­na Anthro­pol­o­gy Days, Dept. of Social & Cul­tur­al Anthro­pol­o­gy, Uni­ver­si­ty of Vienna

Images as evi­dence (of what)? The Body at the Inter­sec­tion of Sci­ence and Art
Sep­tem­ber 23–26th
Uni­ver­si­ty of Vienna
Con­ven­ers Sophie Wag­n­er & Bar­bara Graf
CfP Dead­line June 1st

Sci­en­tif­ic images of the human body hold a dis­tinct sta­tus as being reli­able medi­ums, even though we often don’t know, or par­tial­ly ignore, what kind of image it is and how it has been made (Canals 2020). This is true for visu­al­iza­tions that serve as ref­er­en­tial wit­ness – micro pho­tog­ra­phy, x‑rays, MRI, CT-scans or endo­scop­ic images – and “visu­al strate­gies” that put togeth­er data on the basis of syn­the­sis, order­ing knowl­edge in “abstract tableaus”, trans­form­ing it into cal­cu­la­ble fig­ures, graphs or dia­grams (Mer­sch 2006). They serve as evi­dence in clin­i­cal deci­sion mak­ing, as tool for gov­ern­men­tal prac­tices, and legit­imize poli­cies. Bod­ies are dis­sect­ed, screened and mea­sured, promis­ing trans­paren­cy (Strath­ern 2000), cre­at­ing a sense of “hyper cer­tain­ty” (Fox 2000), and fos­ter­ing the idea of med­i­cine as “exact sci­ence”. With this pan­el we aim to dis­cuss cur­rent modes of engag­ing with the human body visu­al­ly, exam­in­ing this fram­ing of bod­ies, beings – and lives in gen­er­al – as cal­cu­la­ble and pre­dictable. We want to exam­ine the ter­rain of both – the visu­al­iza­tions of dis­eases, and artic­u­la­tions of indi­vid­ual ill­ness expe­ri­ences, which have proven to be par­tic­u­lar­ly use­ful in sup­port­ing the patient-doc­tor com­mu­ni­ca­tion. We ask: how can we crit­i­cal­ly engage with image-mak­ing embed­ded in dis­cours­es of cer­tain­ty and trust? Fol­low­ing the Images of Care collective’s man­i­festo (Pieta and Favero 2023), we under­stand visu­al cul­ture – “how we see, how we are able, allowed, or made to see, and how we see this see­ing or the unseen there­in” (Fos­ter 1988:ix) – as being shaped by ongo­ing dia­logues between biol­o­gy, cul­ture and pol­i­tics. We invite schol­ars and prac­ti­tion­ers to present works, which explore bod­i­ly process­es, cor­po­re­al sen­sa­tions and ill­ness expe­ri­ences. We high­light an inter­dis­ci­pli­nary per­spec­tive, hop­ing to inspire dia­logue across pro­fes­sion­al bound­aries, invit­ing anthro­pol­o­gists who fol­low col­lab­o­ra­tive and exper­i­men­tal approach­es (For­tun et al. 2021), visu­al artists, health-care pro­fes­sion­als, and patient advocates.

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