Accepted Paper:

Temporal sense-making in the case of obesity: Narratives of time and the construction of matters of (non-)concern  


Kay Felder (Technical University of Munich)

Paper long abstract:

Health debates form a public arena where the role of scientific and technological developments is often discussed. Obesity is a good example for such debates, as it touches on a variety of scientific concerns. It is however not only presented as a public health issue, but wide scale societal weight-gain often appears as epitomizing what is perceived as modern decay. The framing of obesity as a public health issue ties into broad discourses about societal change, unwanted developments and future collective problems. Fears of dystopic obese futures are accompanied by accounts of better and more active pasts. Such narratives show how temporal narratives play an intrinsic role in what becomes shaped as a concern, and what not. As Barbara Adam (2003:60) has argued, time often forms a "deep structure of taken-for-granted, unquestioned assumptions". Investigating how such temporal narratives inform citizens┬┤ relations to the social world and shape concerns, and equally importantly, non-concerns in everyday life gives insight in how problems are constructed, understood and picked-up. Drawing on focus-group data from the larger research project "Perceptions and Imaginations of Obesity", conducted under the lead of Ulrike Felt, this paper traces concerns about pasts, futures and changes. It draws on investigations of expectations, anticipations and their performativity and applies conceptual thinking from STS studies on time to an interactive and situated practice. The paper wants to explore time and temporal sense-making in practices of talking and negotiating, in order to see how phenomena become collective matters of concern and non-concern.

Panel C4
Non-concerns about science and technology and within STS