Category: General

Hippocrates Against Protocols: Experiments, Experience, and Evidence-Based Medicine in Brazil

In this text, I address processes in which science is being claimed, shaken, disputed, and unpredictably rearticulated in Brazil’s medical field. Specifically, I consider denialist practices and movements during the Covid-19 pandemic. Based on an ethnographic approach to a variety of actions by medical groups and institutions that are critical of vaccination against Covid-19 and instead defend the use of drugs (considered ineffective by others) for the “early treatment” of the disease, I seek to highlight how their practices rearticulate, transform, and dispute new meanings, values, and practices of science, rather than simply reject it. Although they are publicly named by the media and scientists as denialists, their practices and discourses, as well as the repercussions of their actions, do not seem to be well explained by mere vulnerability to misinformation, lack of understanding of the technical aspects of the disease, or even the supposedly self-explanatory diagnosis of a frankly anti-science position. On the contrary, as I demonstrate in this essay, these groups resort to different constructions of science to produce their arguments and defend themselves against criticism. They do this by repositioning the content and legitimacy of the evidence on different axes than those of Evidence-Based Medicine (EBM), while at the same time, claiming EBM’s authority. In this sense, the following question animates this text: since the practices of these doctors can be recognized as denialist, how can this concept refer to something beyond a simple and direct refusal of everything that is usually called “science”? (read more...)

AI, Climate Adaptation, and Epistemic Injustice

Amid global climate impacts, vulnerable communities—including indigenous peoples, farmers, fisherfolk, ​​and low-income groups—are frequently expected to adapt, change, and build resilience to uncertain climatic futures. ​​Under these changing conditions, what knowledge practices and frameworks should guide the decision-making of vulnerable communities in addressing climate challenges? What knowledge sources and perspectives should be considered when developing resilience policies and plans, from the supranational to the local level? (read more...)

Tokens, Voids, and Archives: Locating Berlin’s NFT Projects

I’m standing on the train platform of U Schloßstraße, an U-Bahn station in Berlin’s Steglitz neighborhood. In front of me is an artwork: a beauty advertisement depicting a smiling woman. The model’s image has been altered with chemical solvents, giving her skin a brushwork-like texture and her complexion a ghostly paleness. I observe the dark, graffitied station around me. The arrivals board says the time is 5:20, but I’m unsure whether it’s early morning or evening. Commuters are wearing winter jackets and KN95 masks. Some read books as they wait for the train. Four young men play a game of tag. I hear the hum of an incoming U9 train and watch its arrival soon after. The doors open and the announcement blasts: Zurückbleiben bitte. Passengers leave the yellow train cars before new ones enter. After a beep, the doors close and the train hums away. The platform empties, leaving only the model’s altered image in my company. Pleased with the experience, I remove the VR goggles and return to a pop-up art gallery on Kurfürstemdamm, Berlin’s famous shopping street. This VR artwork, part of the Immersion series by the artist Vermibus, is now preserved on the Ethereum blockchain as an NFT. It was purchased for 2.4 ETH by Lango1 and remains tied to that user’s Ethereum wallet. Lango1 now owns a singular, authorized copy of the artwork—and with it, a Berlin moment whose physical version has been lost to time. (read more...)

A Vocabulary for Junk in Four Movements

It was really a miracle that he was able to function. He had accumulated so much shit, it was starting to get concerning, or would have, if there had been anyone to be concerned. As it was, all he was, was being practical. Weirdos hoard shit for god knows what reasons but he was keeping a collection of spares. Admittedly, there was a tight line one approaches when one, for example, collects spares for other spares or if you’re missing the very thing to donate parts for in the first place. But he was aware of that. Each time a new thing came into the house, he would reflect on that line. It was a dotted line, like those where you’d put your signature or tear along. Which one it was, that’s an open discourse, to be negotiated anew. As of right now, there was a more practical concern. The (read more...)

Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Entropy: Internet and Synthetic Biology Pioneer Randy Rettberg’s Story on How Information Was Forged

Our first encounter with Randy Rettberg was somewhat surreal. Not that the others weren’t—the sui generis atmosphere is always present—but that first meeting was set in a scenario so far from our everyday reality that it felt like we’d been thrown into a science fiction novel. It happened in 2022 and we were a bit disoriented after ten hours of transatlantic travel and two hours riding Bentleys to the British countryside. It was July, and we had left the cold and dry wind of our almost never rigorous Brazilian winter to find a pleasant summer sun that gently bathed the English lands. The people there were in a good mood and smiling. Someone told us that it was an atypical moment, that life was not so bright most of the time. We got lucky. At least the weather made us feel a little bit at home, but only that. (read more...)

Making Bioethnographic Teams Work: Disciplinary Destabilization, Generative Friction, and the Role of Mediators

Increasingly, scholars across the life and social sciences recognize the necessity of multi-method, interdisciplinary research for its ability to adequately understand the world’s complex problems. However, the process of designing and executing these projects can be challenging. Interdisciplinary endeavors often risk privileging one discipline/methodological paradigm with others incorporated in a more consultative manner (i.e. quantitative versus qualitative), or, they run in-parallel without integrating epistemologies and methodologies (Lewis 2021). Examples of symmetric and integrative projects which unsettle disciplinary boundaries to afford new kinds of knowledge remain few and far between. (read more...)

Becoming a Socialite: How Virtual “Fakeness” Produces Material Realities among Urban Chinese Gay Men

On Chinese gay dating apps, “fake profiles” are a constant concern: photos might have been altered or biometrics might have been fabricated. Offline, the person might barely resemble their profile. The lived experiences of Chinese gay men, however, show us that the fake is not always antithetical to the real. The fake, under certain circumstances, could enact material realities of its own. Gay socialites (同志名媛, tongzhi mingyuan) in urban China’s gay community are cases in point. (read more...)

How Microbes Became Friendly: Visualizations of the Microbiome in Public Media

The biology, as astonishing as it is, does not tell us what it will mean. -Stephan Helmreich, “Homo Microbis” (2014, 4) Within microbiome research, the human body can be recast as a host of microbial ecologies, a “supraorganism” or “holobiont.” From this comes new ways of understanding and treating digestive diseases as well as illnesses associated with brain functioning, like depression and Alzheimer’s. This research reflects the increasing emphasis in the life sciences on “life as process” (Dupre and O’Malley 2007, Dupre 2020), and in the social sciences on the body as “biosocial” (Niehwöhner and Lock 2018). We take up these insights and examine one way that these ontologies of body and environment circulate in public ways by analyzing how the human body is depicted in relation to microbes and environments through public visualizations of the human microbiome. (read more...)