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Accepted Paper:

Ontological Subjects: Modelling Biology's World-Making.  
Joanna Latimer (University of York)

Paper short abstract:

Drawing on a study of the biology of ageing the paper focuses on models & modelling. It excavates how the relations between different kinds of models enact & challenge boundaries between humans & nonhumans to produce ‘worlds’ in common one moment, & division the next.

Paper long abstract:

The paper articulates an approach that follows the "models" that biologists of ageing talk about, fabricate and circulate as one methodology for getting inside the messy world of post-genomic science. The history and philosophy of science has focused on models as epistemic tools that work at the boundary between the known and the unknown and which help concretize epistemologies in the generation of knowledge (Green 2013, Rheinberger 2015). In contrast I shift from the functionalism of the biosciences, to bring into view their affective dimensions. Tracking bio-objects has been important for analyses of how the life sciences are entangled in and help produce and reproduce complex networks of interest. However, as Metzler & Webster (2011) assert bio-objects also 'disrupt the conventional boundaries and identities of biological forms and categories, such as the boundaries between human and animals or between the natural and artificial, sitting ambiguously in between those entities that we tend to conceptualize as human subjects and as non-human objects instead'. Drawing on a study of the biology of ageing, including interviews, participant observation, and analyses of visual and textual media, I press this ambiguity and focus on how and when models become ontological subjects, both enacting and challenging the boundaries between the human and the animal, nature and culture, as well as between what constitutes a good life and death. Specifically, I explore how the relations between different kinds of models are performative of not just substance but a 'world' in common, and when they reassert human exceptionalism.

Panel T089
  Session 1 Saturday 3 September, 2016, -