Category: General

When You Can’t Look Away: Seeing and Difference in American Medicine

When I interviewed her, Juliet was a third-year medical student and a dedicated member of her medical school’s interest groups on social justice. I interviewed her because her name came up in conversations with other medical students at her university, participating in anti-racist work in medicine. She had helped tally the results for her school’s racial justice report card the year I visited, and she cared deeply about issues of racial justice in medicine. She demonstrated in-depth knowledge and interest in our interviews as she discussed just how people of color were disadvantaged in medicine. (read more...)

The ICT Poverty Trap: How Technology Disparities Exacerbate the Spread of Disease and Division in Jamaica

  In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, social life has gone digital in new ways. People the world over are being urged to work remotely from home. Virtual get-togethers have replaced in-person gatherings as global mental health takes a tailspin. All the while, governments are being forced to switch to online platforms to deliver its services, such as welfare and various social programs. Perhaps more than at any time in human history, the ability to effectively participate economically, socially and even politically hinges on being able to harness Information Communication Technology (ICT) and its offerings. (read more...)

The Work it Takes to Stop Working: Productivity in Labs and Sugarcane

In spring of 2020, thousands of scientific labs across several continents shut down. What was deemed “non-essential” research was ramped down and/or paused in an effort to stop the spread of the coronavirus, and in some cases direct resources to Covid-19 research instead. Speaking with scientist friends and interlocutors in both Brazil, where I was carrying out research, and the US, where I’m from and have worked in labs myself, there was much discussion about what work to do in the meantime to continue progressing theses, dissertations, and research projects—in other words, to maintain productivity. On Twitter, numerous threads under the hashtag #phdlife offered advice and encouragement to “scientists without a lab,” as one graphic put it: (read more...)

A Technology of Empowerment and Governance: The IUD/IUS and Sexual Health Care in Toronto, Canada

The intrauterine device (IUD) and the intrauterine system (IUS) have a long and complicated history. The IUD is a contraceptive device inserted into the uterus, which serves as a physical barrier to prevent sperm from fertilizing the egg. Its earliest form can be linked to the work of Ernst Gräfenberg[1], who in 1929 created the ring IUD (Thiery 1997). Over the course of several decades, the IUD was constructed and re-constructed in terms of the materials used, its physical shape, and its promotion to women. Through the development process, some devices, such as the Dalkon Shield, caused irreparable damage. In 1969, the first copper IUD was created by Jaime Zipper and Howard J. Tatum, which took the now easily recognizable T-shape form. While the copper IUD was considered successful in terms of its ability to prevent pregnancy, women commonly had it removed due to increased bleeding during menstruation. Subsequently, the intrauterine system (IUS) was created, first by Antonio Scommegna in the 1960s using progesterone and later by Tapani Luukkainen in 1976 using levonorgestrel; this shift increased its effectiveness from a duration of one year to five years. After over a decade of testing, the Mirena IUS was released in Finland – it would not be approved for sale in the United States until 2001. (read more...)

“Doing Being a Latina,” or Performing Identities Through a Computer Voice

The ability to communicate is often taken-for-granted and imperceptible, despite being vital to everyday life. It defines our social performances as family members, professionals, and neighbors. Moreover, institutions as well as identities need to be “talked into being” (Heritage and Clayman, 2010). Although in many mundane situations we get by with meaningful bodily gestures (Goodwin, 1986) such as nodding, shaking the head, waving, and pointing, other interactions require us to use complex language processing skills and muscular control over the vocal organs and hands. (read more...)

Connectedness in a Time of Pandemic

Right now, many of us are reevaluating what it means to be connected. In the United States, we often think of connectivity as having wireless broadband service, or 5G mobile access. Our minds might conjure up images of Big Tech and Silicon Valley, where I teach. That’s especially understandable in a time of quarantines, social distancing, virtual schooling, and working from home. But the coronavirus pandemic has also prompted reflection on the salience of humanconnections, as we find ourselves suddenly separated from those we love—or else cooped up at home with them, day in and day out. (read more...)

Crackles of Science and other Signs of the Unseen in East Africa

After hearing that several villagers stored bags full of radioactive sand inside their family houses, the nuclear scientist explained that he went into a man’s home with a Geiger Counter. Moving through the house, closer to the bag of sand, he recounted how changes in the quality of the sound corresponded to an increasing presence of radiation. He knew that the people in this village, which is located close to Tanzania’s first uranium mine, kept the bags in their homes because they did not want to give away something that they knew was valuable, like gold or the gemstones mined in the area. He explained they didn’t realize keeping the bags in their homes was not a good idea, though he never said why. The sound emitted by the radiation detector voiced a difference that couldn’t be seen by the human eye: it was a moment when the normally unseen, unheard, odorless, and tasteless forces of ionizing radiation were made apparent. (read more...)

“Un-fixing” hormones: searching for the multiple in hormonal selves

What are hormones? While biomedical notions of hormones focus on their biological functions in bodies, hormones are also cultural artifacts, shaping understandings of health, normalcy, and what it means to live “hormonally balanced lives.” These molecules activate processes across emotions and physiology, social and material worlds, mental and physical health, organic and synthetic biology, the gendered and the non-gendered, and the normal and the pathological. Thus, hormones carry multiple, sometimes conflicting meanings, and sit at the meeting point between many different biomedical and social spheres of life, making them subject to multiple kinds of knowledges (Roberts, 2007). (read more...)