Tag: health

“The Day I Discovered I Was Collaborating on a Eugenics Project”: On Imponderables in Collaborative Research

The title that opens this reflection is a statement by computer scientist Sandra Avila, who is also a co-author of the lines that will flow here. Her account took place during the recording of a podcast on science and feminism. In that situation, Avila recounted a non-trivial research experience. She may never have been able to talk about it with her colleagues in computer science, let alone with collaborators in dermatology who offered their “expertise advice.” It was in informal conversations with feminist researchers that Avila found a safe place to talk about a situation that had made her cry with anger because she felt cheated. (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...)

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...)

Invisible Labor of Health and the Spell of Productivity

When I talked with Jia, who works for an e-commerce company in Shanghai, China, she was trying to finish a “Perfect Month Challenge” on her Apple Watch. That meant closing the rings on her watch every day for a month—achieving goals for standing up once an hour across all 12 hours, burning over 400kcal calories, and exercising 20 minutes. She was fully invested in this project, until Shanghai hit a lockdown due to the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2022, and she suddenly lost the streak. “The ‘firework’ after closing the rings is so nice, and the ‘Perfect Month’ sounds attractive to me,” she said, “I was drawn into exercising, and made a lot of progress, and setting myself a new goal every now and then. But this is also a source of anxiety and stress, and once I couldn’t keep up, I would just let go.” (read more...)

Enigmas of Corporeal Justice: Surrogacy and Legality in India

Over the last two decades, India has become a popular global destination for what is commonly referred to as reproductive tourism, wherein clients travel from one part of the world to another to seek biomedical interventions to help them have children. Breakthroughs in assisted reproductive technologies (ART), such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF), have led to a boom in surrogate pregnancies as a means of having children, with international clients (mostly from the Global North) flocking to countries in the Global South, like India, to avail of these services. Like much of the medical tourism industry, this movement is motivated by access to state-of-the-art medical facilities, skilled professional care, along with remarkably low costs and the availability of poor bodies to extract from. (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...)

Roundtable: “COVID-19: Views from the Field”

We’re wrapping up our five-part series, “COVID-19: Views from the Field,” with a pre-recorded roundtable. This roundtable brought our authors into conversation with each other, across continents and timezones, to discuss conducting—or not conducting—fieldwork in places not understood as COVID-19 “hotspots.” Check out the video here, and follow the links below to read the whole series, also available in the language of each field site. (read more...)

The militarization of life under war, “post-conflict,” and the COVID-19 crisis

Like many others in Colombia, Nairys is a campesina for whom the experience of confinement has been one of dramatic disruption. Marked by restricted mobility, which means very difficult access to water and subsistence crops, being locked down also implies the reduced possibility to buy medicine, food, and other basic supplies. As for many other women, stay-at-home ordinances have also meant more care work, as the responsibilities of feeding and tending for her relatives fall heavily on her. Likewise, confinement involves being permanently under the same roof with her partner, which has exposed Nayris to more possibilities of being mistreated and abused by him, particularly as pressures over mere subsistence increase. (read more...)