Capitalism, Labour and Being ‘Unwell’: Workers in and Beyond Toxic Embodiments
Panel at the ASA 2023 conference „An Unwell World? Anthropology in a Speculative Mode” at the University of London
Camelia Dewan (University of Oslo)
Rebecca Prentice (University of Sussex)
This panel explores the relationship between labour and health in industries where the lingering effects of ill-health – invisible hazardous exposure or the sustained impact of toil on workers’ mental and physical wellbeing – extend far beyond place-based boundaries of employment and their bureaucratic imaginaries. We call for papers that examine the embodiment of labour – focusing on affective and phenomenological accounts of the working body-as-lived – and theorise being ‘unwell’ in relation to the spatial and temporal politics of labour. In much of the world, the experience of labour today involves the crossing or dissolution of boundaries: precarious and informal labour arrangements, working from home and crossing of public/private boundaries as well as working in conditions where hazardous materials and invisible pathogens pollute the very air we inhale. Working bodies carry with them the ill-effects of adverse labour conditions long after the work day, as these seep as well into communities. The effects of these are unevenly distributed, as are the care burdens and labour of repair required in communities that are often shaped by state- and capital-led crises of social reproduction. Our focus on the boundary-crossing nature of working conditions today invites new reflections on permeability as a generative site for considering new possibilities for labour politics. How can attending to the boundary crossings of unwellness help us theorise alternate possibilities rooted in resistance, care, and worldmaking?
We invite papers that explore labour and health in industries where ill-health extends far beyond place-based boundaries of employment and their bureaucratic imaginaries. How can boundary crossings of unwellness help us theorise alternate possibilities rooted in resistance and worldmaking?
To propose a paper:
Proposals can be made via the ASA website until January 3rd 2023. Proposals should include a paper title, the name and addresses of author(s), a long abstract of 250 words, and a short abstract of 300 characters. On submission of the proposal, the author(s) will receive an automated email confirming receipt (make sure this is received to confirm submission), and a decision from the panel organisers will be made soon after January 3rd.
Though proposals must be made through the ASA system, the panel organisers are happy to answer questions via email: firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Creating well-being: biosocial approaches to practices of making well
Panel at the ASA 2023 conference „An Unwell World? Anthropology in a Speculative Mode” at the University of London
In their exploration of what ‘life is worth’, Marsland and Prince (2012) contend that anthropologists’ tendency to focus on the dystopic – on violence, suffering, deprivation, destitution and bare life – comes at the expense of beginning with people’s everyday situated concerns. Conversely, ‘an anthropology of hope’ (Corsin-Jimenez, 2008) can point us in a different direction towards how people create what Thin (2008) calls ‘normal happiness’ or the condition of being well, despite ever-threatening sources of harm and misery. This panel seeks contributions that explore the notion of well-being as a biosocial phenomenon. It asks how we can fruitfully access, measure, analyse and grasp how people make lives with worth and the effect this has on their health. If creativity is ‘a poetics of making’ (McLean, 2009), what are people in a variety of contexts hoping to create in the generation of well-being, how do they go about making these hopes materialize and what are the effects of these different poetics of making on bodies and society? In particular, we invite papers that engage with the role of phenomena such as fun, joy, play, creativity, imagination, experimentation and resourcefulness in generating well-being and/or that consider how biosocial anthropology might methodologically account for the role of well-being practices on health.
Head of Medical Anthropology
Lecturer (Teaching) in Medical Anthropology
UCL Department of Anthropology
14 Taviton Street | London | WC1H 0BW
Is all well with birth? Anthropological contributions to reproductive and maternal health systems
Panel at the ASA 2023 conference „An unwell world? Anthropology in a speculative mode” in London
This panel considers how “all is not well with birth” (Chadwick, 2018), welcoming insights from across reproductive and maternal health. We invite panellists to re-envision care worlds and speculate how anthropology can contribute to the provision of equitable and respectful health systems.
“All is not well with birth” (Chadwick, 2018). Despite the widespread improvements in maternity services, global and local inequalities in care and outcomes persist, and disproportionate rates of maternal and infant mortality cut along racial, economic and geographical lines. The WHO named 2020 ‘Year of the Nurse and Midwife,’ recognising midwives’ pivotal role in public health, yet the same year the COVID-19 pandemic upended reproductive and maternity services, leaving many women and birthing people without essential antenatal, birth and postnatal care. Reproductive rights, obstetric violence and birth trauma are pressing issues, while rates of caesarean sections and obstetric interventions continue to rise around the world. The challenges and struggles related to ‘politics of reproduction’ (Ginsburg and Rapp, 1991) have never been more fraught and urgent.
This panel considers the state of birth but also welcomes insights from scholars working across reproductive and maternal health. We recognise that experiences and provision of services often hang together on a ‘continuum of care’, involving collaboration with “all relevant health care educations, providers, institutions and organizations” including traditional caregivers, birth attendants and midwives (Davis-Floyd, 2022). Anthropologists have held a prominent role in critiquing biomedical ways of knowing and doing birth, and recent work suggests more hopeful visions of care, situated in life-affirming practices prioritising cultural safety and well-being. In looking for solutions, we invite panellists to re-envision care worlds and speculate on how anthropology can be a source contributing to the provision equitable, respectful and sustainable reproductive and maternity care for all.
Call for papers closes on 7 January 2023.
Cassandra and Chiara
The human social in psychiatric practice
Panel at the ASA 2023 conference „An unwell world? Anthropology in a speculative mode” in London
Please note that this call for papers closes on 3rd January 2023.
Convenors: Liana Chase (Durham University) and David Mosse (SOAS)
This panel explores some of the tensions inherent in efforts to harness the therapeutic benefits of human sociality within mental healthcare systems. It invites ethnographic work on models of care that emphasize human connection over psychiatric expertise (e.g., lay counselling, peer support).
Uncertainty over the medical model of mental illness continues to grow, including scepticism that distress is best handled by medical experts through the treatment of discrete diagnosable disorders. The importance of the quality of therapeutic relationships in explaining outcomes is increasingly well established, supporting models of care that give primacy to fostering human connection within – and beyond – the clinical setting. In recent years, this recognition of relationships as an ‘active ingredient’ in mental health treatment has intersected with global shortages of trained clinicians to open up more space for ’non-medical’ and ’non-professional’ interactions within care delivery. In the Global North, this has involved the introduction of peer and lay roles as well as (re)training clinicians to cultivate more mindful, empathetic, and ‘human’ relationships with clients. The Global South has seen a proliferation of interventions relying on lay counsellors and community workers, whose social embeddedness within the neighbourhoods they serve is recognized as a therapeutic asset.
This panel explores some of the tensions inherent in efforts to harness the therapeutic benefits of human sociality within mental healthcare systems, considering the ways the ‚human’ and the ‚clinical’ come to be defined in relation and juxtaposition to one another. How does the operationalization of relationships as therapeutic tools with measurable outcomes alter the terms and qualities of relatedness? What codified rules come to bear on such relationships, and how do these interact with everyday social norms? What relational ethics is implied, and what kinds of moral laboratories are brought into being?
Dr Liana E. Chase (she/her)
Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Durham University
Co-Investigator, Transformation in Mental Healthcare: An Anthropological Study of Supported Open Dialogue (http://anthropology-opendialogue.org/)
Hope, Hype and Lowering Expectations in the Life Science Industry
Panel at the 21th Annual STS Conference Graz 2023 „Critical Issues in Science, Technology and Society Studies“
Organizer: Isabel Briz Hernandez, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong.
Much has been said about hope and science. Since the emergence of biotechnology and its promises of a not-distant-future in which the advances at the bench will quickly travel to the care at the bedside, scholars in science studies have warned about the hype around biotech and the deceiving illusion that it creates in patients at their most vulnerable moment, at the edge of life (Good 2007; Rose and Novas 2005). It has been widely portrayed how hope is capitalized by biotech companies and nation-states, turning the expectations of patients and their families into an economic profit (Novas 2006; Sunder Rajan 2005, 2006, 2010; Waldby 2000). Others have urged us to look at how the idea of potentiality has impregnated life science and biomedicine in the last decades (Taussig, Hoeyer, and Helmreich 2013). Yet, an emerging scholarship is also pointing to how this hype is “recalibrated” on the ground (Gardner, Samuel, Williams 2015) and how high and low expectations are intertwined (Pickersgill 2011, Fitzgerald 2014, Swallow et al. 2020, Day et al. 2021)
This panel draws on the “Sociology of Low Expectations” (Gardner, Samuel, Williams 2015) and invites papers that reflect on how doubt and uncertainty are present in promissory technologies in the life science industry such as gene and cell therapy, stem cell, immunotherapy or personalized medicine in general. In addition to the performance of the “promissory rhetorics” (Borup et al., 2006; Brown, 2015), this panel seeks to analyze ethnographic moments in which hype is contested, and yet those practices are constitutive of technoscience.
Creating futures: Revisiting (the transformation of) care networks in African countries
Panel at the European Conference on African Studies at the University of Cologne
Formal and informal care networks are increasingly emerging in African countries as a way of creating solidarities and making futures. We ask what/who constitutes this future and for whom, how social networks come to be imagined, constituted, engaged, negotiated, and contested.
Social networks are crucial in confronting crisis and securing African futures. African countries are witnessing a proliferation of different forms of formal and informal care networks emerging in the context of growing health, ecological and environmental crises. Ranging from religious and neighborhood networks to self-help groups and professional solidarities, these collectives are increasingly taking a center stage as forms of distribution and sharing in the current era of the changing dynamics of the relationship between citizens, the state and the market, health and socio-economic crises, and global financialization. A growing middle-class population and new digital and mobile technologies are interacting within registers of a long history of mutual aid societies in African contexts shaping social networks in different ways. Meanwhile, the state is seemingly taking a central role in experimenting/expanding social and financial protection through different mechanisms such national health insurance schemes and cash transfer interventions, which, in turn are opening up ways of bringing people together in varied forms. Alongside these, social and economic havoc, precarity, and growing inequalities (health, economic, social), increasing marketization and access to credit continue to shape and challenge solidarity, while taking new meanings across different generations, classes, and genders in different contexts. People increasingly become part of networks as a way of creating solidarities and making futures. We ask what/who constitutes this future and for whom, how social networks come to be imagined, constituted, engaged, negotiated, and contested.
Please submit your paper proposal here.
We look forward to your submissions!
Jacinta Victoria Muinde (University of Oslo)
Edwin Ameso (University of Leipzig)
Ruth Prince (University of Oslo)
Lena Kroeker (Bayreuth University)
Medical Precarity in Uncertain Times: Understanding Contemporary Healthcare Design, Malfunction, and Collapse
Panel at the 16th international SIEF congress in Brno, Czech Republic
“Ageing contested”. Exploring anti-ageing bio-hacking and repair practices in later life
Panel at the STS Italia Conference at the University of Bologna
Organizers: Francesco Miele (1); Michela Cozza (2)
1: University of Trieste, Italy; 2: Mälardalen University, Sweden
Topics: Everyday life and design of the mundane; Algorithmic knowledge, media ecologies and artificial intelligence; Innovation imaginaries, practices and policies; The value of science, technology, innovation and research practices; Heterogeneous assemblages in biomedical research
Keywords: Anti-ageing, bio-hacking, gerontechnologies, socio-material practices.
Over the last decades, the nexus between biological ageing and functional decline has been more and more ‘contested’ (Vincent, 2006), especially by critical scholars – among them, also STS scholars – committed to emancipating from biological and psychological naturalisations of age categories. The relationship between ageing and technoscientific innovation can be analysed by focusing on the constellations of socio-material practices through which the relationship itself is performed. Our panel aims at exploring material-discursive textures associated with ageing, by focusing on two interrelated macro-topics.
The first topic refers to the so-called bio-hacking, defined as the use of “science-based tools and shortcuts for optimizing your own biological potential” (Lee, 2015: 8) and for maximising longevity. In line with processes of biomedicalisation of the body (Cozza et al., 2022), discourses and initiatives related to bio-hacking populate online communities and social movements, which generate, share, and reproduce technoscientific practices to counteract and reverse ageing (e.g., the quantified-self movement). Scientific communities and markets are also involved in extreme anti-ageing practices to extend lifespan (e.g., gene editing). The phenomenon of bio-hacking relies on neoliberal principles which, in turn, dictate the ultimate goal of enhancing the human body through technologies that ‘improve’ its otherwise deteriorating functionalities well beyond what is actually necessary to sustain or repair the body itself.
From the first topic descends the second focus related to a process that we would call repairing ageing. In this case, we bring attention to the maintenance of aged human bodies, rather than to deep manipulative interventions upon them. We may refer to the softest forms of anti-ageing medicine to cure diseases associated with old age and to extend life expectancy as much as possible (Vincent, 2006). The underlying ethic of care induces patients, families, and clinicians to refrain from saying “no” to medical solutions as embodying a promise of better ageing (Kaufman, 2004). In parallel, also most of assistive gerontechnologies aim at repairing the effects of ageing processes on the human body, matching with an imaginary of older people as ‘in need’ of being helped, in accordance with the ideals of ‘independent living’ in later life.
Having this framework as our starting point,here is a not exhaustive list of indicative topics that might be considered:
- Enhancement technologies for aged human bodies.
- Hacking age.
- Repairing practices in later life.
- Algorithmic elderly care.
- Ageing and self-quantification.
- Assistive technologies and emerging care practices.
- Ageing and neo-liberalism.
- Ageism in design practices.
- Clinical interventions and life-extensions.
- Ethical dilemmas related to bio-medical anti-ageing interventions.
Cozza, M., Kirsten L. E., and Katz S. (2022). Hacking age. Sociology Compass, 16(10), e13034.
Kaufman, S. R., Shim, J. K., and Russ, A. J. (2004). Revisiting the biomedicalization of aging: Clinical trends and ethical challenges. The Gerontologist, 44(6), 731–738.
Lee, J. (2015). The biohacking manifesto: The scientific blueprint for a long, healthy and happy life using cutting edge anti-aging and neuroscience based hacks. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform.
Vincent, J. A. (2006). Ageing contested: Anti-ageing science and the cultural construction of old age. Sociology, 40(4), 681–698.
Interesting worlds as matters of caring and commoning
Panel at the 9th STS Italia Conference in Bologna
The deadline for abstract submission is January 15, 2023.
Please, find below the details.
Organizers: Mariacristina Sciannamblo (1); Maurizio Teli (2); Giacomo Poderi (3)
1: Sapienza University of Rome, Italy; 2: Aalborg University; 3: IT University of Copenhagen
Topics: Knowledge co-creation, citizens science, co-design processes, material publics and grassroot innovation; Methodological challenges in a more-than-human world; Everyday life and design of the mundane; The value of science, technology, innovation and research practices; Extractivist powers, imaginaries and asymmetries; Building alliances in public participation and engagement
Keywords: caring, commoning, collaborative research, co-design, engagement
The concept of ‘interest’ has been central in STS since its inception (Callon and Law 1982; Callon 1982), when it was introduced to describe networks of relationships between human and non-human actors through the employment of devices, the development of interpretations, and the mobilization of alliances. The discussion of the formation of interests and its related processes of translation has brought the issue of power, and its reconfiguration(s), under the spotlight, as meaningfully articulated by Callon through the questions: “Who speaks in the name of whom? Who represents whom?”.
More recently, the increasing prominence of critical approaches – e.g. feminist and postcolonial STS – and the intersections with cognate research fields – e.g. participatory design, information science, environmental humanities – have stressed the politically engaged character of STS which emphasized its ‘activist interest’ (Sismondo, 2008). That has spurred the emergence of a „collaborative turn” in STS (Farías, 2017) that we see as a direct consequence of STS concerns with power. The collaborative turn has brought about questions on the ethical, affective, and political dimensions of researching by means of collaborative and committed action-research projects based on dialogue, mutual learning, and caring relationships within heterogeneous collectives.
These concerns have been troubled and further elaborated by feminist thinking in STS, in particular with the prolific reflections on the concept and practice of care (Mol et al. 2010; Martin et al. 2015), which emphasize the ambivalent, situated, and material character of care as well as our own care and concerns as STS researchers and practitioners (Puig de la Bellacasa 2017).
In parallel, STS research has explored the importance of the commons whether these are natural, material, human made, or immaterial (Papadopoulos 2018). Commoning practices can indeed be considered matters of care as they attend to everything we do to maintain, continue, and repair our world (Tronto 1993). Additionally, commoning prompts us to reconsider human-nature and more-than-human relationships in ways that challenge dominant existing extractive capitalist models, towards “the production of ourselves as a common subject” (Federici 2018). These allow us to stay with the troubles that attend to matters of care and the related implications of unpacking the logics, contradictions, and multiple ruptures generated by capitalism. Against this backdrop, we hope to make visible the neglected and often invisible labor of reproducing the commons, and to question which and whose material, political, and ethical orders come into play when researching and intervening in/for the commons.
This panel invites presentations that explore the intersections between caring and commoning in the context of STS intervention-oriented research. Both empirical and theoretical contributions are welcome. These may include (but are not limited to):
- disciplinary intersections among STS, design, and commons/-ing studies;
- knowledge co-creation, co-design processes, material publics and grassroot innovation;
- ICT, labor, and precariousness;
- theories and methodological approaches as forms of caring and commoning;
- complexities, opportunities, and contradictions of making new alliances between researchers, activists, local populations, and institutions;
- sites of ambivalence and contradictions in caring and commoning practices.
Being in/ at Work: Repositioning Knowledge about Work, Disability, Chronicity
Panel at the DGSKA (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie) conference in Munich
Just a short reminder of our panel on work and disability/chronicity at next year’s DGSKA (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie) conference in Munich (25–28 July 2023). We hope to create a platform for scholars interested in how people’s being at/in work relate to experiences of disability and chronicity, in particular in (but not restricted to) contexts of the Global South. Your contributions to the panel will hopefully lead to a special issue that taps into this (neglected) field.
Submissions (max. 200 words) should go to firstname.lastname@example.org. The Call for Paper runs until 15 December 2022. Please consider submitting an abstract and circulate widely.
Being in/ at Work: Repositioning Knowledge about Work, Disability, Chronicity (Workshop)
Disability and chronicity are terms that seek to capture biosocial experiences that intersect with, and affect, how people engage in work, labor or employment. This panel is focused on how people navigate disabling, debilitating and/or are enabling experiences in and through work, and how these experiences are shaped by the social localities from which they emerge. We place emphasis on how work becomes significant for people whose bodily conditions or appearances are produced as ‘other’ in respective societies, or who experience pain or chronic illness that delimit (but maybe also reshape or expand) their possibilities to contribute to communities and other social arrangements. Departing from the focus on work-related exclusion put forward in previous inquiries in anthropology and related disciplines, we attend to positive relations between occupational identities and work embodiments on the one hand, and experiences of disability and chronicity on the other. Exploring new angles on the interplay between ‘being disabled’ and ‘being in/at work’, we ask whether and how work ‘works’ as a form to abandon or to problematize constructions of disability. The workshop will bring together scholars who address one or more of the following concerns:
Co-Constitution: How are forms of disability and/or chronicity defined in connection to notions and ideas of work? And vice versa, how do disability and chronicity shape extant forms of labor?
Meaning-Making: How do people with disability and/or chronic conditions in different localities around the globe perform and talk about their work?
Critique: How can embedded understandings of disability, chronicity and work be brought to estrange the workings of administrative procedures, ideologies and political arrangements?
Reflection and Auto-Ethnography: To what degree is the labor of anthropologists shaped by ableist conceptions? Which potential does disability hold to explore exclusionary dimensions of anthropological work?
Best, Stefanie Mauksch
Institut für Ethnologie
Fakultät für Geschichte, Kunst und Regionalwissenschaften
+49 341 97 37 227