Category: Uncategorized

Pain-Free Mouse, being ‘human,’ and more-than-human ethics

In the opening scene of Blade Runner, a fictional diagnostic called the Voigt-Kampff test distinguishes human from android. The test, as imagined in Philip K. Dick’s sci-fi novel and later adapted into the film adaptation, exploits a primary autonomic response: the so-called ‘shame’ or ‘blushing’ reaction to a “morally shocking stimulus.” In the novel, the ‘moral shock’ stimulus invariably involves nonhuman animals: (read more...)

The Paradox of Autonomy and Care for Mothers of Adults with Disabilities in Brazil

Since the early 2000s, Brazil has experienced a significant change concerning the rights of people with disabilities in the country. Based on the struggles of the Brazilian Disability Rights Movements, in 2009 the country promulgated the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2006) and in 2015 enacted the Brazilian Inclusion Law, also known as the Statute of People with Disabilities. The promotion of autonomy and the social participation of people with disabilities is at the core of these legislations. While these measures are not always accompanied by policies that can actually guarantee their implementation, they still impact people with disabilities in the way they foster such discourses around autonomy and independence. (read more...)

A schizophrenic streak

In discussions on COVID-19, it has become a common trope that disciplines like anthropology are particularly relevant and fitting for writing about the pandemic. Indeed, the pandemic unearths many dormant questions about inequalities in public health care systems, uneven food distribution, anthropogenic effects on the environment, and more. Just as the virus spreads globally, so does it bring to the surface injustices across the globe: in the slums of Mumbai, in Northern Italian hospitals, in your own four walls. (read more...)

Zika, abortion, and care: the work that falls to women beyond the epidemic

Feminist studies in geography, anthropology, and public health have indicated that women do more work during epidemics in terms of prevention and care (Rivera-Amarillo and Camargo 2020). In particular, this text explores two burdens that women have borne during the Zika epidemic: abortion and care for people with disabilities. I will briefly compare the cases of Colombia and Brazil, the countries most affected by Zika in the Americas, drawing attention to women’s bodies and rights, as well as to the debates on reproductive justice that took place during and after the epidemic outbreak that occurred between 2015 and 2016. (read more...)

Organic Waste and the Looming Putrecene

As an urban compost coordinator I have supervised efforts to increase compost collection both commercially and residentially in New York City over the past five years. The job has offered an intriguing vantage to assess the future of urban waste-driven economies. This post discusses the microbial capitalism on display in the compost pile, looking beyond today’s relatively transient Anthropocene toward the far more enduring Putrecene. (read more...)

The Sargassum Question

Sitting in her office, I could smell the sharp scent of hydrogen sulfide coming from the beach. She turned to me, paused for a second and proceeded to say with a seriousness in her tone that I hadn’t anticipated: The ecosystem that I have been studying all my life is now disappearing in a matter of weeks. Sargasso was once confined to the limits of the Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic Ocean. As an ecological system, the Sargasso Sea has no land boundaries and its biological containment relies entirely on a delicate balance of ocean currents. Unlike other ecosystems, it lends itself to an almost poetic reimagination of what an ecosystem is. On the West, the sea bounded by Gulf Stream; on the North, by the North Atlantic Current; on East by the Canary Current; and on the South by the North Equatorial Current. It was first described by Cristopher Columbus in 1492 during his journey to the Americas. Ever since, its origins and movements across the Atlantic Ocean have been a source of debate and wonder. It wasn’t until 1834 that the German botanist Meyen F. J. F. proposed the idea that sargassum was an ecosystem entirely independent of any land, a floating ecosystem. He was also the first person who suggested that sargassum reproduces itself in the middle of the ocean instead of coming from any given territory (Deacon, 1942). (read more...)

Negotiating Ethical Technology Use: Trust and Care in End-of-Life Conversations

The headline on the local news station’s website was sensational: “Bereaved Family Upset Kaiser Used Robot to Tell Father He Would Die”. Evoking some sort of post-modern dystopia, the article explains that the family “was taken by surprise when a robot rolled into the room” to deliver the news that an elder family member’s illness had progressed past the physician’s ability to treat it. While the robot actually was a remote physician using teleconferencing software to communicate with the patient and his family, the monitor projecting an image of the physician’s head and shoulders sat atop a tall, narrow metal unit reminiscent of a body. The “robot doctor” story was picked up by national news outlets, like the New York Times, and medical ethicists weighed in on the ethics of communicating “sensitive” topics remotely. The news stories problematized the impersonal, almost routinized, care as it was perceived by the family. In one, a representative from the American Medical Association commented, “We should all remember the power of touch – simple human contact – can communicate caring better than words.” (read more...)

Choreographies of Magic and Mess: AusSTS in Melbourne and Darwin

As the presenter encouraged the academics in the room to consider what it means for nanotechnology to sell itself as ‘magic’, boots appeared outside the window behind him. The presenter was Dr. Declan Kuch from the University of NSW and the occasion was the AusSTS Graduate Workshop, which was held on the 12th floor of Deakin Downtown in Melbourne. The provocation Dr. Kuch presented: ‘who performs the magic and for whom?’, was illuminated by the real time, situated magical performance unfolding behind him, as four high-rise window washers descended, each swiping and cleaning in hypnotic choreography. They wore orange helmets and gloves to keep warm, blue buckets clipped to their belts and bandanas protecting their faces from the water, or perhaps from us, as we smiled and pointed and ogled at their daring feats. It was an STS moment: the physicality of the window washers; the labour/danger dynamic; talk of magic and nanotechnology—science and humanities colliding in a discomforting dance. (read more...)