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Session Overview
RN24_02a_P: Health, Bio-Medicine & Social Context II
Wednesday, 30/Aug/2017:
4:00pm - 5:30pm

Session Chair: Aaro Tupasela, University of Copenhagen
Location: PC.4.26
PANTEION University of Social & Political Sciences 136 Syggrou Avenue 17671 Athens, Greece Building: C, Level: 4.

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Why Did the Animal-proof Netting and Paper Egg Tray Policies Fail? : The Social Construction of Artifacts’ Political Properties

Yu-Ju Chien

National Taiwan University, Taiwan

To prevent avian flu outbreaks, since 2004 the government has introduced two artifacts that enhance farm biosecurity to poultry farmers, including bird-proof netting and paper egg trays. Although these two artifacts seem like appropriate technology and suitable for small-scale production, most farmers did not embrace them. This article explains farmers’ resistance by investigating the market structures in which farmers and retailers operate and interact. By interviewing government officials, veterinary experts, and poultry farmers, the study found that farmers’ economic rationality and practices are embedded in the conventional low-cost, mass production market model, whether in poultry or egg production. The less leverage a farmer has to determine the price of his/her products, the less willing s/he is to alter preexisting practices and adopt new artifacts. The paper concludes by arguing that farmers’ economic rationality and behaviors are situated in their market chains. When developing agricultural policies that affect farmers’ livelihoods, it is necessary to consider take into account how market structures shape stakeholders’ experiences and the political properties of relevant artifacts.

Profiles of malaria research in Portugal: the dynamics of capitalism in non-economic driven scientific practices

Ana Ferreira

Faculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas da Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Portugal

Productivity, development of marketable products or services and socio-economic growth are increasingly recognized as drivers of scientific activities. This is revealed in profit-driven practices and in the incorporation of non-monetary dynamics of capitalism by the scientific field. However, it remains to be addressed how research in malaria, that focusing on a disease endemic to poverty is not expected to be a major target of biotechnology and/or pharmaceutical companies, is framed by these processes.

This paper characterizes the scientific landscape of malaria research through the analysis of all Web of science-indexed publications involving Portuguese organizations (1900-2014; n=467). These organizations have been contributing to the understanding of malaria’s pathophysiology for a long time, a feature that is attributed to malaria’s endemicity in continental Portugal until the 1970s, and its current presence in regions of all former Portuguese territories.

First, data was systematized by content and bibliometric analyses. Subsequently, multiple correspondence and cluster analyses revealed a bi-dimensional landscape (who is publishing versus what is being published) and three profiles: beginners (early non-experimental publications); local appropriations (low-impact research in which Portuguese organizations lead others from former Portuguese territories); global patterns (applied research developed by heterogeneous actors, in which Portuguese organizations are subordinated to others belonging to countries with more established S&T systems).

These profiles reveal the construction of the Portuguese scientific system and unveil that the development of performance- and application-driven dynamics in malaria research is not hampered by its low profit potential. This approach can be extended to other biomedical fields to understand the dimensions underlying the (re)construction of science.

Fear of Cancer Recurrence: Genomic medicine and the reconfiguration of liminality

Julia Elizabeth Swallow1, Emily Ross2

1University of Leeds, United Kingdom; 2University of Edinburgh, United Kingdom

A shifting emphasis within medico-scientific practice towards genomic understandings of cancer has led to the development of a range of techniques and practices based on molecular profiling. These include trialling of different treatments over time in response to molecular changes within tumours, the development of biomarkers which indicate the presence of cancer, and tests assessing a patient’s individual risk of cancer recurrence. These targeted tests and therapies are presented as enabling a more precise understanding of the risk of cancer recurrence, and of treatment response and management over time. In the context of these developments we argue that the notion of ‘cancer survivorship’, and experiences of the cancer trajectory, are poised to become increasingly complex. Drawing on the sociology of time, and presenting qualitative data gathered across healthcare sites in the UK, we examine the ways in which molecular tests and therapies (re)produce and reconfigure patients’ subjective experiences and fears of cancer recurrence. We situate these within wider cultural discourses surrounding cancer, and highlight the potential for genomic techniques to shift the meaning of futures beyond cancer for patients and their families. We show that experiences of liminality in particular, often drawn on in sociological explorations of life following treatment for cancer, may be reconfigured by genomic medicine. With the potential for genomics to impact upon societal understandings of cancer more widely, our work contributes to the sociology of risk and uncertainty, STS (science and technology studies) approaches to diagnosis and screening, and sociological work exploring the meanings of health and disease in everyday life.

A Bloody Mess: ethnographic inquiry into blood’s enactment and representation in a Belgian Blood Establishment

Nathan Wittock, Michiel P.M.M. De Krom, Lesley Hustinx

University of Ghent, Belgium

In social science, blood donation has conventionally been considered the purest example of altruism. Recent evolutions – related to transfusion-transmittable infections, contested donor exclusion policies, and bio-medical advances that enabled commodification – added three ‘big stories’ to the conventional understanding of the ‘gift relationship’: those of the blood economy, biological citizenship, and risk governance. While these stories have multiplied our understanding of blood, we argue that they are examples of perspectivalism (Mol, 2002): they frame blood from different angles but fail to grasp the entanglement of technological, biomedical, political and sociotechnical aspects of this ‘bio-object’ (Vermeulen et al., 2012). Following a post-ANT approach, this paper suggests an ontological response (Law & Singleton, 2005) to move beyond the four stories and the disciplinary bound and reductionist research that they inspire. We examine blood through the notions of fluid space and fire space (Law & Mol, 2001) to uncover its multiple and entangled ontologies. Drawing on ethnographic research into blood supply management in a Belgian blood establishment, we follow blood from its donation onwards to reveal that it is simultaneously a matter of science and sacrifice; a product with economic, healing and ethical value; lifesaving and life-threatening; and sourced from altruistic donors and part of a depersonalized assembly line. These findings show that blood is more multi-faceted and variable than the four “blood stories” suggest. As such, our study contributes to re-imagining blood, and opens up new pathways for studying this ‘bio-object’ and its role in a safe and sufficient European blood supply.

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