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Accepted Paper:

Mundane chemo-worlds: engaging with antibiotics and benzodiazepines through everyday (de)prescription and (non)use in Austria  
Lisa Lehner (University of Vienna) Janina Kehr (University of Vienna)

Paper Short Abstract:

Antibiotics and benzodiazepines are ubiquitous pharmaceutical substances in modern biomedicine. We follow everyday practices of their (de)prescription and (non)use, and ask how these (re)enact moral worlds and chemo-socialities–around ideas of normalness, risky subjectivities, and good citizenship.

Paper Abstract:

Pharmaceuticals often remain uneasy solutions to a host of medical, political, and social ills, promising opportunities for relief while also portending novel, unforeseen risks. Substances like antibiotics for infection control or benzodiazepines for mental health care embody these fundamental ambivalences inherent in the increasing pharmaceuticalization of (public) health. Both ubiquitous substances in use and circulation, they act as “infrastructures” (Chandler 2019) of modern biomedicine, while antibiotic resistance and the risk of addiction, respectively, also underscore the deathly potential of their pharmaco-chemical worlds. As such, prescribers and users alike often conceive of antibiotics and benzodiazepines either as near-invisible pharmaceutical supplies or as overdetermined by their potential risks, fueling efforts of “de-prescribing.” But pharmaceutical substances are never independent of the contexts in which they “intra-act” (Barad 2003), never just one thing and never inane, as highlighted by anthropologists’ notions of “fluidity” (Hardon & Sanabria 2017) or “toxic worlding” (Nading 2020). Based on ethnographic research in Austria, we engage with the situated meanings and effectiveness of antibiotics and benzodiazepines, asking how moral worlds and chemo-socialities–such as ideas of normalness, risky subjectivities, and good citizenship–are (re)made in the mundane practices of prescribing and using. Specifically, we consider such practices in terms of de-prescribing and non-use, and how the refusing, rejecting, and opposing of substances enact different and often ambivalent chemo-socialities amid calls for “choosing wisely” and sustainability.

Panel P009
Ambivalent substances: chemosocialities in life-death worlds [Medical Anthropology Europe (MAE)]
  Session 2 Thursday 25 July, 2024, -