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This panel discusses how anthropologists can contribute to collaborative efforts in studying environmental impacts on (ill)health by complexifying ‘the social’ and asking how such collaborations might lead to more tractable targets for biosocially informed ecological health and policy interventions.
Increasingly, social determinants and material elements are being considered relevant forms of exposure that have direct impacts on environmental (ill)health (e.g. in exposome or urban mental health research). This reflects shifts in fields such as epidemiology in recognising how environmental conditions are not simply ‘residual’ or ‘confounding’ risk factors but in fact ‘over-arching determinants’ of (ill)health (Vineis 2022).
Yet measurements and definitions of ‘the social’ in such research are often conceptually simplistic, empirically thin and lack an understanding of the dynamic and situated interplay of socio-ecological variables (Manning 2019; Söderström n.d.). While epidemiological studies have identified high-level social variables (SES, ethnicity, population density) associated with (ill)health, ethnographic studies have shown how complex environmental conditions emerge and are dealt with in situated everyday life (Bister et al. 2016; Rose/Fitzgerald 2022).
There is an urgent need for more effective transdisciplinary engagement that can attend to complexity in examining the socio-environmental (Lappé/Hein 2020) where urban/rural/developing environments, climates and health are interacting but also considers how exactly collaboration can be part of ‘making better numbers’ (Roberts 2021)
In this panel, we will reflect on efforts by anthropologists to develop collaborative biosocial research relevant to examine the complex dynamics of health and environment. We will consider the conceptual and methodological contribution of anthropology in newly evolving biosocial epidemiologic/biomedical research on health and environments, what form of inter- and transdisciplinary approaches are required, and in what ways these might lead to more tractable targets for biosocially informed ecological health and policy interventions.
Celia Roberts (Australian National University)
Ann Kelly (King's College London)
Jenna Randolph (University of Bologna)
Keshav Sawarn (Indian Statistical Institute)
Esther Kaner (UCL)
Patrick Bieler (Technical University of Munich)
Rosie Mathers (University College London) Sahra Gibbon (University College London (UCL))