Enchanted antibodies: "biologics", nature, health and nation
Jonas Kure Buer (University of Oslo)
Paper short abstract:
Through one patient's quest to redo her understanding of antibody-based pharmaceuticals, this paper examines how safety and efficacy of so-called "biologics" emerge in intra-action with late modern imageries of the anthropocene and local Norwegian articulations of health, nature and nation.
Paper long abstract:
The introduction of antibody-based anti-rheumatic agents in 1998 is widely accepted as having revolutionized rheumatology, a medical sub-specialty that for most of the 20th century was cast at the art of treating arthritis while its means to do so were limited. These inordinately expensive and acutely unstable pharmaceutical "objects" challenge notions of agency in medical treatment and human/non-human boundaries. Grown from human and rodent cells, they are injected into sick bodies to act on and along the innate immune cells of those bodies. Tangible materials with intangible efficacies, they are known to rheumatologists and their patients as "biologics", and surrounded with vivid imageries. In this paper, I shall approach the so-called "biologics" as material-discursive entities, and examine how they are produced as safe and efficacious through articulations of the morpheme "bio" with pre-existing medical meanings, and with ideas of nature and health. I start from the analysis of one patient's creative efforts to re-conceptualize these medicines. Situating her process of understanding within a 150 year-old line of attempts to make sense of complex medical realities by manipulating the morpheme "bio", I then explore how articulations of that morpheme in relation to specific attitudes towards nature, health and Norwegian national identity may produce "biologics" that are cosmologically meaningful, animated and enchanted, and attuned to particular fantasies and fears of the anthropocene.
Mobile materials and technologies of enchantment