Hi all. Here’s the first part of this month’s roundup.
Nano Dreams and Nanoworlds: Fantastic Voyage as a Fantastic Origin Story
Fantastic Voyage, a 1966 Hollywood science fiction film based on a screenplay written by Harry Kleiner, is often associated with contemporary nanotechnology imaginings. In this article, I draw on ethnographic research conducted within a new nanoengineering department and undergraduate major to show how this film is deployed to produce a particular disciplinary and professional identity for nanoengineering. By juxtaposing my analysis of how the film is framed in the department with a close reading of the film itself, I show how both inclusions and exclusions constitute the “nano dream,” a boundary-drawing practice that constructs the nanoengineer as an intrinsically ethical identity. I further assess how the constitutive exclusions of a cultural object taken up within an epistemic community can potentially serve as the starting points for intervention—in this case, a critical pedagogy that posits a “critical nanoengineering” practice.
Number-Lines: Diagramming Irrationality in “The Phoenix and Turtle”
Adhaar Noor Desai
This article considers how changes in the concept of number allow both poets and mathematicians in the early modern period to imagine and articulate concepts that resist referential signification. Specifically, it examines how both Shakespeare’s “The Phoenix and Turtle” and Robert Recorde’s The Whetstone of Witte employ hybridized lines possessing characteristics of both discrete and continuous types of quantity in order to render irrationality. Tracing the development of a formalized poetic “number line,” which understands verses as negotiating between aural, accentual-syllabic numbers and visual inscriptions, this article claims that “The Phoenix and Turtle” functions diagrammatically. In doing so, the poem engages habits of thought also required by Recorde’s practical manuals on mathematics, but does so in order to interrogate the limits of a rationalized, mathematical worldview.
Calvino’s “Crisis of Reason” Revisited
Italo Calvino’s fiction has often been read as a literary critique of modern reason. His nonfiction has sometimes been understood as enthusiastic about the cognitive capacity of science. Both readings follow the author’s self-conceptualization as a writer deeply interested in epistemological issues. A rereading of some of his essayistic and journalistic texts as well as the novel Invisible Cities shows that this epistemological pondering to some extent cloaks ethical concerns and Calvino’s increasingly pessimistic conception of the leeway of human freedom in the social sphere.
Deleuze, Haraway, and the Radical Democracy of Desire
In response to suggestions that Deleuze and Guattari are the “enemy” of companion species, this essay explores the tension between Donna Haraway’s attacks against Deleuze and Guattari and their philosophy of becoming animal. The essay goes on to contextualize Deleuze and Guattari’s statements against pet owners through a discussion of the psychoanalytical refiguration of desire and shows how their ostensible attack against pet owners fits into their larger critique against capitalism. The essay illustrates why Deleuze and Guattari and Haraway are more in agreement than first meets the eye, finding commensurability through Haraway’s early work on embryology. Becoming animal does not begin and end with either humans or animals, and the essay explores the high stakes of focusing on intensities rather than actual animal bodies.
Fear and Panic in Iowa City: Narratives, Affects, and Amygdalae
Overturning assumptions about the neural location of fear in humans, University of Iowa neuroscientists successfully frightened the previously “fearless” Patient S.M. in 2013. Examining this Iowa study on fear as a productive problem for both neuroscience reporting and studies of affect in the humanities, this article asks how narratives of fear travel to implicate our understanding of contemporary scholarship in the humanities and sciences. It questions the ways in which scientific case studies themselves, alongside popular scientific and philosophical appropriations of scientific material, are determined by affective responses formed in relation to narrative.
The neoliberal diet and inequality in the United States
Gerardo Otero, Gabriela Pechlaner, Giselle Liberman, Efe Gürcan
This paper discusses increasing differentiation of U.S. dietary components by socioeconomic strata and its health implications. While upper-income groups have had increasing access to higher-quality foods, lower-to-middle-income class diets are heavily focused on “energy-dense” fares. This neoliberal diet is clearly associated with the proliferation of obesity that disproportionately affects the poor. We provide a critical review of the debate about obesity from within the critical camp in food studies, between individual-focused and structural perspectives. Using official data, we show how the US diet has evolved since the 1960s to a much greater emphasis on refined carbohydrates and vegetable oils. Inequality is demonstrated by dividing the population into households-income quintiles and how they spend on food. We then introduce our Neoliberal Diet Risk Index (NDR), comprised of measures of food-import dependency, the Gini coefficient, rates of urbanization, female labor-force participation, and economic globalization. Our index serves to measure the risk of exposure to the neoliberal diet comparatively, across time and between nations. We conclude that only a societal actor like the state can redirect the food-production system by modifying its agricultural subsidy policies. Inequality-reducing policies will make the healthier food involved in such change widely available for all.
Does “difficult patient” status contribute to de facto demedicalization? The case of borderline personality disorder
Sandra H. Sulzer
A diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) often signals the quintessential “difficult patient” status to clinicians, with at least one scholar arguing the condition itself was created to name and group difficult patients. While patients who are deemed difficult are often dispreferred for care, does this have an impact on their overall status as medicalized patients who have successfully achieved a sick role? This study relies on (n = 22) in-depth interviews with mental health clinicians in the United States from 2012 to evaluate how they describe patients with BPD, how the diagnosis of BPD affects the treatment clinicians are willing to provide, and the implications for patients. My findings suggest patients with BPD are routinely labeled “difficult,” and subsequently routed out of care through a variety of direct and indirect means. This process creates a functional form of demedicalization where the actual diagnosis of BPD remains de jure medicalized, but the de facto or treatment component of medicalization is harder to secure for patients.
Food deserts or food swamps?: A mixed-methods study of local food environments in a Mexican city
Differential access to healthy foods has been hypothesized to contribute to disparities in eating behaviors and health outcomes. While food deserts have been researched extensively in developed Anglophone countries, evidence from low- and middle-income countries is still scarce. In Mexico, prevalence of obesity is among the highest worldwide. As obesity has increased nationally and become a widespread public health issue, it is becoming concentrated in the low-income population. This mixed-methods study uses a multidimensional approach to analyze food environments in a low-, middle-, and high-income community in a Mexican city. The study advances understanding of the role that food environments may play in shaping eating patterns by analyzing the density and proximity of food outlet types as well as the variety, quantity, quality, pricing, and promotion of different foods. These measures are combined with in-depth qualitative research with families in the communities, including photo elicitation, to assess perceptions of food access. The central aims of the research were to evaluate physical and economic access and exposure to healthy and unhealthy foods in communities of differing socioeconomic status as well as participants’ subjective perceptions of such access and exposure. The findings suggest a need to reach beyond a narrow focus on food store types and the distance from residence to grocery stores when analyzing food access. Results show that excessive access and exposure to unhealthy foods and drinks, or “food swamps,” may be a greater concern than food deserts for obesity-prevention policy in Mexico.
Microaggressions and the reproduction of social inequalities in medical encounters in Mexico
This article examines the role of microaggressions in the interactions between biomedical personnel and marginalized patients to addresses the constitutive property of medical interactions and their contribution to a class-differentiated and discriminatory local social world. Based on ethnographic fieldwork over the course of three months (2008–2011) the study examined the clinical relationships between obstetric patients and clinicians in a public hospital in the city of Puebla, Mexico. It reveals four factors present in the social hierarchies in Mexico that predispose clinicians to callous interactions toward “problematic others” in society, resulting in microaggressions within clinical encounters: (a) perceptions of suitability for good motherhood; (b) moralized versions of modern motherhood inscribed on patient bodies; (c) a priori assumptions about the hypersexuality of low-income women; and (d) clinician frustration exacerbated by overwork resulting in corporeal violence. This work concludes by questioning the efforts for universal health rights that do not address underlying social and economic inequities.
Social support in the practices of informal providers: The case of patent and proprietary medicine vendors in Nigeria
Maia Sieverding, Jenny Liu, Naomi Beyeler
The social and institutional environments in which informal healthcare providers operate shape their health and business practices, particularly in contexts where regulatory enforcement is weak. In this study, we adopt a social capital perspective to understanding the social networks on which proprietary and patent medicine vendors (PPMVs) in Nigeria rely for support in the operation of their shops. Data are drawn from 70 in-depth interviews with PPMVs in three states, including interviews with local leaders of the PPMV professional association. We find that PPMVs primarily relied on more senior colleagues and formal healthcare professionals for informational support, including information about new medicines and advice on how to treat specific cases of illness. For instrumental support, including finance, start-up assistance, and intervention with regulatory agencies, PPMVs relied on extended family, the PPMVs with whom they apprenticed, and the leaders of their professional association. PPMVs’ networks also provided continual reinforcement of what constitutes good PPMV practice through admonishments to follow scope of practice limitations. These informal reminders, as well as monitoring activities conducted by the professional association, served to reinforce PPMVs’ concern with avoiding negative customer health outcomes, which were perceived to be detrimental to their business reputations. That PPMVs’ networks both encouraged practices to reduce the likelihood of poor health outcomes, and provided advice regarding customers’ health conditions, highlights the potential impact of informal providers’ access to different forms of social capital on their delivery of health services, as well as their success as microenterprises.
Investigating the effects of temporal and interpersonal relative deprivation on health in China
Lei Jin, Tony Tam
We argue that in addition to interpersonal relative deprivation, it is important to examine how temporal relative deprivation influences health, especially in rapidly changing societies such as China. We develop four competing hypotheses regarding the possible effects of temporal relative deprivation on health. Moreover, we propose that temporal relative deprivation may confound the health effects of interpersonal relative deprivation, and for the sake of conceptual clarity, temporal relative deprivation needs to be accounted for in the examination of interpersonal relative deprivation. We use data from a nationally representative survey in China; our analytical sample consists of 10,828 respondents. The dependent variables are self-rated health and the frequency of experiencing depressive symptoms. Interpersonal relative deprivation is measured by individuals’ evaluation of their current positions on a 10-rung ‘ladder’. We also assess individuals’ subjective positions at 14 years of age and from 10 years ago. To measure temporal relative deprivation, current subjective status is compared with subjective status at the two time points in the past to construct indicators of perceived upward and downward mobility. Both diagonal mobility models and conventional logistic regression are used and the results from the two types of model are comparable. The majority of Chinese people felt that they moved up the social ladder compared with their parents or themselves 10 years ago. Perceived upward mobility is not associated with health outcomes, whereas perceived downward mobility, especially intra-generational, is a strong predictor of worse mental and physical health. These patterns are consistent with the argument that the effects of bad experiences are stronger and longer lasting than those of good ones. They also focus our attention on those who perceived downward mobility. Furthermore, evidence suggests that the health effects of current subjective status also include the cumulative influence of prior changes in one’s social status.
Gender, male-typicality, and social norms predicting adolescent alcohol intoxication and marijuana use
James R. Mahalik, Caitlin McPherran Lombardi, Jacqueline Sims, Rebekah Levine Coley, Alicia Doyle Lynch
Objective: This study examined the direct and interactive effects of gender, male-typicality, and social norms in predicting the initiation and longitudinal patterns of alcohol intoxication and marijuana use in U.S. youth.
Method: Data were drawn from a longitudinal survey of 10,588 youth who participated in the in-home survey of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health (Add Health). Multilevel growth modeling used data from three time points to assess trajectories of substance use from adolescence to young adulthood.
Results: Analyses indicated that gender, male-typicality, as well as home availability, friend social norms, and schoolmate social norms predicted initial levels of intoxication and marijuana use, with gender, friend norms, and schoolmate norms also predicting differential rates of growth over time in intoxication and marijuana use. Interaction results indicated that gender moderated male-typicality’s relationship to both substance use variables, and home availability’s relationship to alcohol intoxication.
Conclusions: These findings extend the literatures regarding interrelations among gender, gender roles, social norms, and health risk behaviors by (a) locating the genesis of those effects in adolescence, (b) identifying gender and social norms to be salient in terms of both initiation and growth of substance use over time, (c) suggesting that gender differences should be understood as moderated by other social-contextual variables, and (d) arguing that prevention efforts should address gender and gender roles more explicitly in programming.
Democracy and self-rated health across 67 countries: A multilevel analysis
Patrick M. Kruegera, Kathryn Dovel, Justin T. Denney
Existing research has found a positive association between countries’ level of democratic governance and the health of their populations, although that research is limited by the use of data from small numbers of high-income countries or aggregate data that do not assess individual-level health outcomes. We extend prior research by using multilevel World Health Survey (2002–2004) data on 313,554 individuals in 67 countries, and find that the positive association between democratic governance and self-rated health persists after adjusting for both individual- and country-level confounders. However, the mechanisms linking democracy and self-rated health remain unclear. Individual-level measures of socioeconomic status, and country-level measures of economic inequality and investments in public health and education, do not significantly mediate the association between democratic governance and self-rated health. The persistent association between democratic governance and health suggests that the political organization of societies may be an important upstream determinant of population health.
Food insecurity, chronic illness, and gentrification in the San Francisco Bay Area: An example of structural violence in United States public policy
Henry J. Whittle, Kartika Palar, Lee Lemus Hufstedler, Hilary K. Seligman, Edward A. Frongillo, Sheri D. Weiser
Food insecurity continues to be a major challenge in the United States, affecting 49 million individuals. Quantitative studies show that food insecurity has serious negative health impacts among individuals suffering from chronic illnesses, including people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV). Formulating effective interventions and policies to combat these health effects requires an in-depth understanding of the lived experience and structural drivers of food insecurity. Few studies, however, have elucidated these phenomena among people living with chronic illnesses in resource-rich settings, including in the United States. Here we sought to explore the experiences and structural determinants of food insecurity among a group of low-income PLHIV in the San Francisco Bay Area. Thirty-four semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with low-income PLHIV receiving food assistance from a local non-profit in San Francisco and Alameda County, California, between April and June 2014. Interview transcripts were coded and analysed according to content analysis methods following an inductive–deductive approach. The lived experience of food insecurity among participants included periods of insufficient quantity of food and resultant hunger, as well as long-term struggles with quality of food that led to concerns about the poor health effects of a cheap diet. Participants also reported procuring food using personally and socially unacceptable strategies, including long-term dependence on friends, family, and charity; stealing food; exchanging sex for food; and selling controlled substances. Food insecurity often arose from the need to pay high rents exacerbated by gentrification while receiving limited disability income–a situation resulting in large part from the convergence of long-standing urban policies amenable to gentrification and an outdated disability policy that constrains financial viability. The experiences of food insecurity described by participants in this study can be understood as a form of structural violence, motivating the need for structural interventions at the policy level that extend beyond food-specific solutions.
Between stigma and mother-blame: blind mothers’ experiences in USA hospital postnatal care
This study examines instances of discrimination that blind mothers in the USA have experienced at the hands of doctors, nurses and social workers during hospital postnatal care. The author identifies postnatal care as the time when blind mothers are likely to face the most stigmatising interactions with medical staff, as it is when scepticism about their competence as mothers is at its height. The author argues these interactions must be understood within their institutional context in which ideologies of risk and mother-blame are embedded in hospital postnatal practices.
For society, state and self: juggling the logics of professionalism in general practice appraisal
Tom Entwistle, Elaine Matthews
Sociologists repeatedly appeal to notions of altruism, bureaucratisation and self interest in their efforts to explain the changing place of the professions in contemporary society. We treat these three readings as institutional logics that are key to understanding the way in which doctors respond to the appraisal system at the heart of the UK’s approach to revalidation. Our analysis of a survey of 998 general practitioners (GPs) working in Wales finds an altruistic commitment to learning and improvement, bureaucratic demands for reporting information and self-regarding resentment of changes in the occupational package provided by general practice. But the data also demonstrate that the maintenance of the appraisal regime is dependent on the preparedness and capacity of individual GPs to do micro-level institutional work on all fronts.
Contesting modernity: Tobacco use and romanticism among older Dai farmers in Xishuangbanna, China
Xiang Zhao and Gareth Davey
The majority of research about tobacco use in China focuses on Han Chinese, the main ethnic group comprising over 90 per cent of the population, and a paucity of research exists on ethnic minorities. The present study elucidates tobacco use among the Dai people, an ethnic group in Yunnan Province, Southwest China. The study design consisted of interviews and grounded theory methodology in a symbolic interactionist theoretical framework. The categories of the grounded theory revealed tobacco consumption was weaved in a complex web of meanings: social practices, perceptions of health, and work lives as agriculturalists, situated in Dai cultural and social milieu. An important finding was the stage-managing of tobacco as a symbol of ‘tradition’ versus ‘modernity’: Through a process of contested modernity, the older men championed long-standing tobacco customs as representative of Dai heritage and thus their own tobacco use as upholding traditions amid encroaching cultural and societal change in China. These findings are important because little is known about Dai people’s tobacco use and how they are responding to social change. There are also implications for the development of culturally-appropriate tobacco control strategies.
Shining trinkets and unkempt gardens: on the materiality of care
Annemarie van Hout, Jeannette Pols and Dick Willems
The increasing use of telecare will profoundly change nursing care. How to understand these changes is, however, far from clear. This is because (i) studies on telecare seldom consider the situation it replaces, and (ii) current concepts and methods used to study the impact of telecare may not allow us to fully grasp these changes. We suggest that an analysis of the changing materiality of care practices is a suitable way to articulate and reflect on possible concerns. It allows us to compare care practices in the same terms before and after telecare has been introduced. To demonstrate this, we study the materiality of the classical care setting, the nursing house call, to map the situation before telecare is introduced. Building on science and technology studies, we apply four categories as heuristics to analyse materiality in care: signs, dis/enablers (or scripted things), tools and practical arrangements. We leave open the question of how material arrangements could or should be matters of concern in nursing care, and instead argue for studies that give insights into the everyday tinkering with the materiality of care that both nurses and patients need to engage in.
The moral experience of illness and its impact on normalisation: Examples from narratives with Punjabi women living with rheumatoid arthritis in the UK
Tessa Sanderson, Michael Calnan and Kanta Kumar
The moral component of living with illness has been neglected in analyses of long-term illness experiences. This article attempts to fill this gap by exploring the role of the moral experience of illness in mediating the ability of those living with a long-term condition (LTC) to normalise. This is explored through an empirical study of women of Punjabi origin living with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) in the UK. Sixteen informants were recruited through three hospitals in UK cities and interviews conducted and analysed using a grounded theory approach. The intersection between moral experience and normalisation, within the broader context of ethnic, gender and socioeconomic influences, was evident in the following: disruption of a core lived value (the centrality of family duty), beliefs about illness causation affecting informants’ ‘moral career’, and perceived discrimination in the workplace. The data illustrate the importance of considering an ethnic community’s specific values and beliefs when understanding differences in adapting to LTCs and changing identities.
Context and complexity: the meaning of self-management for older adults with heart disease
Lucy Moore, Julia Frost and Nicky Britten
Self-management policies have presented opportunities for patients with long-term conditions to take control and actively improve their health. However, the work of self-management appears to be packaged in the form of essential and desirable skills and attributes required for success. This article presents the findings of a qualitative study, employing longitudinal diary interviews with 21 patients aged between 60 and 85 years diagnosed with coronary heart disease from three contrasting general practice areas. Drawing on concepts of the care of the self and the reflexive self, this article presents the diversity of self-management practices by older patients in the context of their lifeworld. Illustrated through individual case studies, it clearly identifies where patients are engaged self-managers with the agency, knowledge and self-discipline to modify their behaviour for an improved health outcome. This study highlights their life and illness perspectives as well as those of patients who are burdened with emotional insecurity, comorbidities and caring responsibilities. It shows the spectrum of relationships with health professionals that influence engaged self-management. We suggest that policy initiatives that favour behavioural change neglect social context and the individualised practices that are a necessary response to structural and psychosocial constraints.
Treatment, deterrence or labelling: mentally disordered offenders’ perspectives on social control
Mentally disordered offenders are a group of service users who experience substantial amounts of control and supervision. This article uses theories of social control to analyse the way in which mechanisms of control are understood by this group. Semi-structured interviews with mentally disordered offenders in England who were subject to a restriction order under the Mental Health Act 1983 (as amended by the Mental Health Act 2007) provided the empirical basis for this study. The offenders had a number of perspectives on the restriction order. Firstly, it was seen as a mechanism for identifying those suffering from a mental disorder and for providing appropriate treatment. Secondly, the restriction order was viewed as a form of disciplinary control through which societal norms might be internalised. Thirdly, it was seen as labelling offenders in a manner that was experienced as limiting and oppressive. A number of research participants were aware that the order acted to limit staff actions. These participants saw the order as a means by which they might shape the support that they received in order to further their own aims.A video abstract of this article can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwIwDI2sOTY&feature=youtu.be
Pharmaceutical direct-to-consumer advertising and US Hispanic patient-consumers
Kristin K. Barker and Cirila Estela Vasquez Guzman
Hispanic Americans use prescription medications at markedly lower rates than do non-Hispanic whites. At the same time, Hispanics are the largest racial-ethnic minority in the USA. In a recent effort to reach this underdeveloped market, the pharmaceutical industry has begun to create Spanish-language direct-to-consumer advertising (DTCA) campaigns. The substantive content of these campaigns is being tailored to appeal to the purported cultural values, beliefs and identities of Latino consumers. We compare English-language and Spanish-language television commercials for two prescription medications. We highlight the importance of selling medicine to a medically under-served population as a key marketing element of Latino-targeted DTCA. We define selling medicine as the pharmaceutical industry’s explicit promotion of medicine’s cultural authority as a means of expanding its markets and profits. We reflect on the prospects of this development in terms of promoting medicalisation in a US subgroup that has heretofore eluded the pharmaceutical industry’s marketing influence. Our analysis draws on Nikolas Rose’s insights concerning variations in the degree to which certain groups of people are more medically made up than others, by reflecting on the racial and ethnic character of medicalisation in the USA and the role DTCA plays in shaping medicalisation trends. A video abstract of this article can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZabCle9-jHw&feature=youtu.be
Anxious? Depressed? You might be suffering from capitalism: contradictory class locations and the prevalence of depression and anxiety in the USA
Seth J. Prins, Lisa M. Bates, Katherine M. Keyes and Carles Muntaner
Despite a well-established social gradient for many mental disorders, there is evidence that individuals near the middle of the social hierarchy suffer higher rates of depression and anxiety than those at the top or bottom. Although prevailing indicators of socioeconomic status (SES) cannot detect or easily explain such patterns, relational theories of social class, which emphasise political-economic processes and dimensions of power, might. We test whether the relational construct of contradictory class location, which embodies aspects of both ownership and labour, can explain this nonlinear pattern. Data on full-time workers from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (n = 21859) show that occupants of contradictory class locations have higher prevalence and odds of depression and anxiety than occupants of non-contradictory class locations. These findings suggest that the effects of class relations on depression and anxiety extend beyond those of SES, pointing to under-studied mechanisms in social epidemiology, for example, domination and exploitation.
Gaining control over breast cancer risk: Transforming vulnerability, uncertainty, and the future through clinical trial participation – a qualitative study
Christine Holmberg, Katie Whitehouse, Mary Daly and Worta McCaskill-Stevens
Concepts of disease risk and its management are central to processes of medicalisation and pharmaceuticalisation. Through a narrative perspective, this paper aims to understand how such macro-level developments may (or may not) be experienced individually, and how an algorithm that is used for recruitment into a clinical trial may structure individual notions of being ‘at risk’ and ‘in need of treatment’. We interviewed 31 women participating in the Study of Tamoxifen and Raloxifene (STAR), a chemoprevention trial conducted in the US between 1999 and 2006. Interviews were thematically analysed. Women in the study had experienced the threat of breast cancer and felt vulnerable to developing the disease prior to STAR participation. The diagnosis of ‘being at risk’ for cancer through an algorithm that determined risk-eligibility for STAR, opened up the possibility for the women to heal. The trial became a means to recognise and collectivise the women’s experiences of vulnerability. Through medication intake, being cared for by study coordinators, and the sense of community with other STAR participants, trial participation worked to transform women’s lives. Such transformative experiences may nevertheless have been temporary, enduring only as long as the close links to the medical institution through trial participation lasted.
The politics of care in technoscience
Aryn Martin, Natasha Myers, and Ana Viseu
Care is a slippery word. Any attempt to define it will be exceeded by its multivocality in everyday and scholarly use. In its enactment, care is both necessary to the fabric of biological and social existence and notorious for the problems that it raises when it is defined, legislated, measured, and evaluated. What care looks and feels like is both context-specific and perspective-dependent. Yet, this elusiveness does not mean that it lacks importance. In our engagements with the worlds that we study, construct, and inhabit, we cannot but care: care is an essential part of being a researcher and a citizen. To properly invite you into this Special Issue, then, we need to say something about what we mean when we write about care.
Caring for nanotechnology? Being an integrated social scientist
One of the most significant shifts in science policy of the past three decades is a concern with extending scientific practice to include a role for ‘society’. Recently, this has led to legislative calls for the integration of the social sciences and humanities in publicly funded research and development initiatives. In nanotechnology – integration’s primary field site – this policy has institutionalized the practice of hiring social scientists in technical facilities. Increasingly mainstream, the workings and results of this integration mechanism remain understudied. In this article, I build upon my three-year experience as the in-house social scientist at the Cornell NanoScale Facility and the United States’ National Nanotechnology Infrastructure Network to engage empirically and conceptually with this mode of governance in nanotechnology. From the vantage point of the integrated social scientist, I argue that in its current enactment, integration emerges as a particular kind of care work, with social scientists being fashioned as the main caretakers. Examining integration as a type of care practice and as a ‘matter of care’ allows me to highlight the often invisible, existential, epistemic, and affective costs of care as governance. Illuminating a framework where social scientists are called upon to observe but not disturb, to reify boundaries rather than blur them, this article serves as a word of caution against integration as a novel mode of governance that seemingly privileges situatedness, care, and entanglement, moving us toward an analytically skeptical (but not dismissive) perspective on integration.
Abyssal intimacies and temporalities of care: How (not) to care about deformed leaf bugs in the aftermath of Chernobyl
Prompted by a classroom discussion on knowledge politics in the aftermath of the Chernobyl disaster, this article offers a reading of Hugh Raffles’ Insectopedia entry on Chernobyl. In that entry, Raffles describes how Swiss science-artist and environmental activist Cornelia Hesse-Honegger collects, studies, and paints morphologically deformed leaf bugs that she finds in the proximity of nuclear power plants. In exploring how to begin to care about beings, such as leaf bugs, this article proposes a notion of care that combines an intimate knowledge practice with an ethical relationship to more-than-human others. Jacques Derrida’s notion of ‘abyssal intimacy’ is central to such a combination. Hesse-Honegger’s research practices enact and her paintings depict an ‘abyssal intimacy’ that deconstructs the oppositions between concerns about human suffering and compassion for seemingly irrelevant insects and between knowledge politics and ethics. At the heart of such a careful knowledge production is a fundamental passivity, based on a shared vulnerability. An abyssal intimacy is not something we ought to recognize; rather, it issues from particular practices of care that do not identify their subjects of care in advance. Caring or becoming affected thus entails the dissociation of affection not only from the humanist subject, but also from movements in time: from direct helping action and from the assumption that advocacy necessarily means speaking for an other, usually assumed to be inferior.
Making time for soil: Technoscientific futurity and the pace of care
Maria Puig de la Bellacasa
The dominant drive for understanding soil has been to pace its fertility with human demand. Today, warnings about soil’s exhaustion and endangered ecology raise concerns marked by fears of gloomy environmental futures, prompting scientists and soil practitioners urgently to develop better ways of taking care of soils. Yet the pace required by ecological soil care could be at odds with the predominant temporal orientation of technoscientific intervention, which is driven by an inherently progressivist, productionist and restless mode of futurity. Through a conceptual and historical approach to the soil sciences and other domains of soil knowledge, this article looks for soil ontologies and relations to soil care that are obscured by the predominant timescape. Contemporary discussions of the future of the soil sciences expose tensions between ‘progress as usual’ – by intensifying productivity – and the need to protect the pace of soil renewal. The intimate relation of soil science with productionism is being interrogated, as ecology attempts to engage with soil as a living community rather than a receptacle for crops. In this context, and beyond science, the ‘foodweb’ model of soil ecology has become a figure of alternative human–soil relations that involve environmental practitioners in the soil community. Reading these ways of making time for soil as a form of ‘care time’ helps to reveal a diversity of more-than-human interdependent temporalities, disrupting the anthropocentric appeal of predominant timescales of technoscientific futurity and their reductive notion of innovation.
Unsettling care: Troubling transnational itineraries of care in feminist health practices
Responding to the call by Maria Puig de la Bellacasa for Science and Technology Studies to take up ‘matters of care’, this article cautions against equating care with positive feelings and, in contrast, argues for the importance of grappling with the non-innocent histories in which the politics of care already circulates, particularly in transnational couplings of feminism and health. The article highlights these histories by tracing multiple versions of the politics of care in a select set of feminist engagements with the pap smear and cervical cancer. Drawing on postcolonial and indigenous feminist commitments, as well as amplifying Donna Haraway’s call to ‘stay with the trouble’, the article seeks to disturb hegemonic histories and arrangements of race, colonialism, and political economy, while simultaneously valuing divergent multi-local itineraries as relevant to technoscientific matters of care. This call for a politics of ‘unsettling’ care strives to stir up and put into motion what is sedimented, while embracing the generativity of discomfort, critique, and non-innocence.
Care in context: Becoming an STS researcher
Melissa Atkinson-Graham, Martha Kenney, Kelly Ladd, Cameron Michael Murray, and Emily Astra-Jean Simmonds
This collaborative article, written by graduate students who attended the Politics of Care in Technoscience Workshop, brings the themes in this volume to bear on their own developing science and technology study projects and research practices. Exploring the contours of five specific moments where questions of care have arisen in the course of their everyday research, they do not find a single or untroubled definition of care; instead, care is often a site of ambivalence, tension, and puzzlement. However, despite this uneasiness, they argue that taking the time to reflect on the multiple, sometimes conflicting, forms and definitions of care within a specific research context can inform the way that science and technology studies scholars envision and conduct their work.