(A15)
Intimate entanglements in science and technology
Location Bowland North Seminar Room 6
Date and Start Time 27 Jul, 2018 at 09:00
Sessions 3

Convenors

  • Daniel Lopez Gomez (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) email
  • Joanna Latimer (University of York) email

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Short abstract

This panel aims to open up the value of intimacy as a quality of socio-material relations in knowledge-making and communities of practice. The focus is on the attachments and detachments that appear crucial to understanding affective relations and ecologies inside and beyond science and technology.

Long abstract

This panel aims to open-up the value of intimacy as a quality of socio-material relations in knowledge-making and communities of practice. Where intimacy has been mentioned it is usually in the context of distinguishing local and experiential knowledge from universal and scientific knowledge. In contrast, as Raffles (2003) points out, intimacy can be foregrounded as a site for the social production of knowledge across the social, human and life sciences, to help rework human/nature and socio/technical boundaries. 

The aim of the panel is thus to foreground what is so often made invisible in extant accounts of how knowledge is done. The focus is on the attachments and detachments that appear crucial to understanding affective relations and ecologies inside and beyond the sciences, including the social sciences. This entails pressing how the 'affective turn' in Science & Technology Studies does more than represent a 'turn to ontology'.

We welcome contributions that explore how the foregrounding of affect restructures possibilities for 'situated knowledge' and non-anthropocentric ('posthuman') modes of relatedness in a wide range of substantive domains and communities of practice - from laboratories, metric and digital worlds, care and disability, *human-non human relationalities* with animals and objects. In so doing, we want to address different aspects of how and when intimacy becomes a quality of entanglements. Issues addressed include the politics of intimacy and its different characterizations: as ordinary and dangerous, a site of alterity and "contamination" but also of attachment, belonging and companionship.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.

Papers

"My genes are in mice": intimate encounters in co-clinical trials

Authors: Gail Davies (University of Exeter) email
Rich Gorman (University of Exeter) email
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Short abstract

This paper explores the personal encounters and public dilemmas emerging as personalized medicine and patient partnerships create new intimate entanglements between patients, researchers and laboratory animals within co-clinical trials.

Long abstract

The growth of personalised medicine and patient partnerships in biomedical research are remaking experiences of patienthood by opening up increasingly intimate interfaces with animal research. In research charting the changing nexus of relations between health, science, and welfare in laboratory animal research, we explore how patients are entering new, complex, and intimate relations with both researchers and the animals with which they work. The figure of 'the patient' has long been a powerful voice in public debates around animal research, mostly spoken for by organisations, and used to embody the need and funding of medical research. Drawing on interviews and media, which express perspectives from researchers and patients involved in co-clinical trials in cancer research, we explore how these increasingly intimate encounters may both affect patient experiences and reconfigure public debate. A public debate around balancing harms to animals and benefits to patients becomes resituated within the body of the patient; where disease outcomes are affected by the production and trajectory of tumours in personalised mice. This intimacy presents a complex corporeal attachment for patients and animals undergoing similar experiences, whilst opening up questions about public views on animal research with individualised benefits.

Embodiment, affect and the transformation of HIV: intimate knowledge and biomedical consensus

Authors: Peter Keogh (Open University) email
Catherine Dodds (University of Glasgow) email
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Short abstract

In this paper we revisit accounts of people living with or around HIV collected through qualitative studies conducted over the last 22 years in order to explore the potential of intimate (embodied and affective) forms of knowledge to trouble biomedical consensus around the transformation of HIV.

Long abstract

Over two decades, developments in antiretroviral treatments are credited with transforming HIV from a generally fatal to a chronic condition. The re-purposing of treatments for HIV prevention has rendered those who are 'virally supressed' non-infectious.

Transformations in the experience of and the meanings ascribed to HIV are generally characterised as a triumph of biomedical/pharmacological knowledge production described in the promissory language of scientific 'advance' and 'breakthrough' . Moreover, the epidemic has entailed intense epistemic and discursive production not only in the biomedical/pharmaceutical spheres, but also in epidemiology, public health, the behavioural sciences, social policy as well as communitarian, political, cultural and artistic spheres. Thus collective responses to HIV have been characterised as technological assemblages drawing on diverse disciplinary knowledges.

In this paper, we consider the invisible role of intimacy in such knowledge assemblages in order to disrupt biomedical and scientific hegemony in accounts of the transformation of HIV. We are involved in a project revisiting in-depth interviews with 740 people living with or around HIV in the UK from 15 studies conducted between 1997 and 2016. We consider the accounts of 12 people from four studies conducted respectively in 1997, 2008, 2011 and 2016. Revisiting accounts of everyday engagements with HIV allows us to explore the generation and circulation of intimate knowledges of HIV (affective knowledge: fear, anxiety, love, excitement, remorse; embodied knowledge: fatigue, bodily transformation, sickness/recovery, bleeding, orgasm). In particular, we focus on infectiousness and consider the role of intimate knowledge in bringing about states of 'non-infectiousness'.

Transgenerational epigenetics: intimate entanglements between being and knowing in a contested field

Authors: Michael Penkler (Technical University of Munich) email
Ruth Müller (Technical University of Munich) email
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Short abstract

Transgenerational epigenetics argues that environmentally induced epigenetic marks can be inherited across generations. This claim is highly contested within epigenetics. We trace researchers' self-conceptualizations and the intimate entanglements between being and knowing in this contested field.

Long abstract

Epigenetics investigates changes in gene function that do not result from DNA mutations, but from chemical modifications upon the DNA. Epigenetic modifications can be influenced by multiple environmental factors, such as nutrition, toxins or social experiences such as stress, which thus can affect gene expression via epigenetic mechanisms. Recent studies focusing on 'transgenerational epigenetic inheritance' have investigated the hypothesis that acquired epigenetic marks could be passed on to subsequent generations. A number of labs in Europe and North America have argued for the existence of such inheritance effects based on rodent experiments. These claims, however, remain highly contested within epigenetics as such as they break with key paradigms of how inheritance has been conceptualized in modern biology.

Drawing on participant observations at conferences, literature analysis and interviews with researchers working on transgenerational epigenetic inheritance, we trace how researchers position themselves and their claims vis-à-vis 'main stream' epigenetics and biological understandings of inheritance more broadly. We particularly focus on the multiple affective dimensions related to the formation of what currently constitutes a 'field-within-a-field' and how researchers navigate membership in this contested community. We investigate different practices of self-conceptualization and presentation, such as assuming the roles of 'rebels', 'pure scientists', or 'diplomats', and hence intimate entanglements between being and knowing in this field. With this, we contribute to a better understanding of the affective dimensions of the formation of research fields and contested claims-making in science.

Accomplishing complex genomic based multi-arm trials: Working with tissue, time and value

Authors: Julia Swallow (University of Leeds) email
Anne Kerr (University of Leeds) email
Choon Key Chekar (University of Leeds) email
Sarah Cunningham-Burley (University of Edinburgh) email
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Short abstract

This paper explores how a multi-arm genomics trial is accomplished in everyday practices of cancer care by focussing on the active agency of tumour tissue. Practices of care operate alongside institutional arrangements to render experimental biomedical research 'workable' and 'bearable'.

Long abstract

A new generation of adaptive, multi-arm clinical trials are developing in cancer research including those offering patients experimental treatments based on the genomic analysis of their cancer. Drawing on data from an ethnographic study of one such trial, including observations of out-patient clinic appointments, laboratory work, out-patient biopsy procedures, staff team meetings, and interviews with oncologists, research nurses and clinical trials assistants, this paper explores the work involved in making the trial part of everyday practices of patient care. We focus in particular on how practitioners deal with difficulties in accessing and analysing lively, changeable tissue; maintaining its value, and delivering results in a timely fashion. This includes a discussion of how the tissue becomes a symbolic extension of the patient: a key part of the social and material relations of cancer care. We also explore how the management of tissue is a means through which practitioners navigate patients' hopes and expectations. We conclude with a discussion of how these practices of care operate alongside institutional arrangements to render experimental biomedical research 'workable' and 'bearable' for patients' and practitioners' subjectivities and experiences of cancer care.

The intimacy of collaboration and resistance: patient organizations, gynecological cancer and changing lives

Author: Lisa Lindén (University of Gothenburg) email
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Short abstract

I explore practices of gynecological cancer patient organizations as intimate entanglements of collaboration, resistance, and affectivity. In doing so, I approach patient organization practices and cancer patienthood as multilayered politics of intimacy, which entangle affects, care and knowledge.

Long abstract

The experiential and local knowledge enacted by patient organizations (POs) is often contrasted with the scientific, universalistic and "abstract" knowledge enacted by biomedicine. However, in the light of how POs today establish intimate collaborations with scientists, policymakers and health care professionals, such distinction is difficult to hold (Rabeharisoa et al. 2014). In this presentation, I discuss the practices gynecological cancer (GC) POs participate in, and enact, in terms of intimate entanglements of collaboration, resistance, and affectivity. I present an ongoing ethnographic study on GC POs in Sweden and in the UK. The project's aim is to gain knowledge about how GC POs enact and negotiate ideas and practices concerning what it means to be a GC patient and how they enact their cause (what they are fighting for).

GC is easily seen as a shameful low-status cancer and is often associated with stigmatizing ideas about sexual lifestyle. This stands in contrast to a prevailing cancer survivorship imaginary of the optimistic and heroic cancer survivor. POs work to change the lives of GC patients through better support and care, and by influencing health care, research and policy. I make use of feminist STS sensibilities towards affects and care (e.g. Martin et al. 2015) to explore the productivity of conceptualizing POs' work as not merely a politics of knowledge, but also a multilayered and relational politics of intimacy. Such approach attunes simultaneously to the affectivity of GC (e.g. its politics of shame), and the affectivity of POs's work and practices.

The practiced intimacies of heat: negotiating the energetic imbrications of working and researching bodies

Author: Elspeth Oppermann (Charles Darwin University) email
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Short abstract

This paper reflects on the intimate, embodied and relational knowledge that both enables and disrupts practices of work and practices of research in two sets of tropical and outdoor workplaces/work practices.

Long abstract

This paper reflects on the difference between two sets (a coastal, urban construction site and an inland remote mine site) of differently imbricated socio-material relations in which the researcher had more intimate everyday knowledge of the former and less of the latter. Intimate everyday knowledge was both the object and subject of this research in the bodies of both workers and researchers. 'Local' embodied knowledge of heat as at once what the researchers wanted to know 'about' the workers, and yet it also enabled the researchers to communicate with each other across disciplines and with 'participants' from very different experiential places about a visceral somatic plane and intensity that defies verbal capture. In the second site, although it was considered as 'the same' climatic zone as the first, socio-material imbrications were so different that the relative absence of embodied familiarity produced an initial scepticism toward 'local' knowledge claims, and then (as embodied and communicated experience of these claims mounted) as a sense of reduced ability to conduct 'good' or 'accurate' research. Crucially, this disruption of intimacy also made apparent the relatively invisible role it had played in giving meaning and awareness to previous research and analysis conducted in a more familiar environment. Rather than undermine an embodied approach, this strengthened the researchers' acknowledgement of the importance and utility of their own bodies in producing 'carnal knowledge' (Stoler, 2002) and communicating it. This raises questions about how, in attending to this process, we might design future research and its 'communication.'

Knowledge, intimacy & being alongside the life sciences of ageing

Author: Joanna Latimer (University of York) email
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Short abstract

Ethnographic research about the life sciences relies upon researchers getting inside a domain whose belongings can appear to position them as Other. In this paper, I explore the affects and effects of a methodology that deliberately promotes 'being alongside' (Latimer 2013) life scientists.

Long abstract

Ethnographic STS research about the life sciences relies upon researchers getting inside a domain whose belongings can appear to position them as, methodologically at least, Other. In this paper, I explore the affects and effects of a methodology that deliberately promotes 'being alongside' (Latimer 2013) life scientists in STS research. 'Intimacy' as a quality of relations does not just run counter to professionalism, objectivity and scientific methodologies, but is often constituted as dangerous to their modes of ordering. Within this perspective intimacy has traditionally been relegated to the sexual, the domestic, and the family spheres, and has had no place as a quality of scientific knowledge-making. Indeed, I explore how knowledge produced as an effect of intimate relations can be disruptive of the mainstream because it can assert an alternative imaginary to those versions of reality which dominate. Because of this intimacy and affect as critical to the making of professional and scientific worlds, leads to struggles in mundane communities of practice, and to their absence from dominant versions of knowledge-making and science. My discussion draws upon my experiments with possibilities for creating biosocial understandings of health and ageing. This research depends upon (some) life scientists and I being affected by each other's world-making. I particularly focus on how moments of intimacy are critical to this work of being alongside and explore how and when they facilitate experiments in intimate entanglement, and unexpected struggles in common, particularly struggles over how to keep giving knowledge life.

Abundance in the Anthropocene

Authors: Eva Giraud (Keele University) email
Eleanor Hadley Kershaw (University of Nottingham) email
Richard Helliwell (University of Nottingham) email
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Short abstract

This paper contrasts three cases: bed bugs, hookworms, and antibiotic resistant microbes, which have flourished intimately with(in) humans as other lifeforms decline, in order to situate abundance, attachment and affect as constitutive elements of the Anthropocene that require new modes of relating.

Long abstract

Numerous conceptual attempts have been made to understand the Anthropocene in relation to environmental toxicity (Murphy, 2006, 2017; Alaimo, 2016; Shotwell, 2017) and overwhelming species and habitat loss (van Dooren, 2014; Bird Rose et al, 2017). Amidst this contamination and extinction, however, ecological niches have emerged that are often taken as signs of resilience and hope, from mushrooms flourishing in damaged forests (Tsing, 2015) to urban wildlife in brownfield sites (Lorimer, 2015). Yet resilience presents more complex challenges when it is a characteristic of lifeforms who are intimately entangled with humans in more contentious ways, such as 'pests', parasites, and pathogens.

This paper draws together research from three cases: bed bugs, hookworms, and antibiotic resistant microbes, all of which have flourished in particular contexts as other lifeforms decline. Such resurgence, emergence and restoration are bound up with the failure and unintended consequences of prior attempts to remove these beings from human worlds, and the degradation or pathologisation of the technologies, infrastructures and situations that previously kept them at bay.

Through contrasting our three cases we identify difficulties in negotiating the intimate ways that humans have become re-entangled with and produce knowledge about these lifeforms. We then focus attention on the possibilities each case poses for finding ways of 'being alongside' (Latimer, 2013) actors who might be unsettling or even threatening, but can no longer be expunged from human worlds. In doing so, we situate abundance, attachment and affect as constitutive elements of the Anthropocene that require sustained engagement and intervention.

Objectual companionship? Intimating with objects at the end of their lives

Authors: Blanca Callén (BAU, Design College of Barcelona) email
Daniel Lopez Gomez (Universitat Oberta de Catalunya) email
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Short abstract

We propose the notion of intimate entanglements to explore, in the context of consumption and disposal economies, how objects come to matter to us and what makes us care for them. Hence, we will review the consequences this shift may have for the political ecology of discard and maintenance studies.

Long abstract

The material turn in social theory have put the study of objects in the center of any attempt to understand the production of social order, but only recently their affectivity has become an important issue. Scholars such as Stengers (2010), Haraway (2008), Latimer (2013), Despret (2004; 2013) and Hennion (2004; 2007) have brought to the forefront the affective entanglements between humans and non-humans as constitutive of ecologies of knowledge production. Our contribution aims to further pursue this in relation to practices of maintenance, repairing, mending and conservation of everyday objects. We propose the notion of intimate entanglements to explore, in the context of consumption economies and disposal practices, how objects come to matter to us, what makes us care for them, and how they might become companions and mutual interdependent supporters (Puig de la Bellacasa, 2011). To do so, we have interrogated people from different ages and rural and urban contexts about the reasons and conditions that move them to keep and maintain certain objects while discarding others. The notion of intimate entanglements may enable us to approach various objectual biographies as stories of companionship and becoming with these objects (Haraway 2008). This will enable to explore objectual affectivity while questioning self-centred and anthropocentric approaches to objects' sociality such as the theory of affordances (Norman, 1999) in design studies or the domestication theory (Silverstone & Haddon 1994) in the study of technologies' consumption. The consequences this shift may have for the political ecology of discard and maintenance studies will also be explored.

Affectivity and data-visualisation entanglements in the (re)invention of Magnetic Resonance Imaging technologies

Author: Silvia Casini (University of Aberdeen) email
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Short abstract

I explore the entanglement between affectivity, memory and data-visualisation in the context of the Aberdonian (re)invention of MRI technologies. The parasitical function of material objects coming from the archive and lab ethnography illuminates affectivity and memory in the (re)invention of MRI.

Long abstract

Visualisation is not only a practice to make visible that which is not in sight, but much more a process capable of producing new relations among things, data, spaces and different professionals (Halpern, 2015: 21). By relying upon archive research and laboratory ethnography undertaken in the context of a project on the Aberdeen (re)invention of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) technologies, I demonstrate how data-visualization practices around MRI are entangled with memory and affectivity. Instead of focusing on the multi-modal body of the scientist in action to explore the affective turn in STS (Alac 2011, Myers 2015, Vertesi 2015), I pay attention to the dynamism and agency of material objects. Once dug up from archives, laboratory ethnography and oral-history interviews, material objects such as a bacon-slicing machine, a picture from the Middle Ages, a poem, the imprints of an old MRI scanner on the floor of the laboratory function as paratextual elements insisting at the margins of science in the making. With their parasitical function, these objects corrupt the idea of the independent "body" (of data, of an article, of a technological apparatus, etc.) by making it permeable to the parasite. Paratextual elements function as living traces witnessing the role played by the apparatus of memory and affectivity in the (re)invention of MRI.

Good at heart. Fetal heartbeat listening practices in midwifery care in Germany

Author: Annekatrin Skeide (University of Amsterdam) email
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Short abstract

Drawing on ethnographic research in midwifery practices in Germany, I show how producing knowledge and creating intimacy are entangled in fetal heartbeat listening. I argue that in different monitoring practices, different intimate knowledges and knowledgeable intimacies are brought about.

Long abstract

Besides sonography, fetal heart rate monitoring provides the intimate technological access to the unborn child in pregnancy and childbirth care.

There remains debate over whether to use continuous or intermittent monitoring, given that RCT based research cannot 'conclusively prove' that one style of monitoring improves child health outcomes more than the other.

In my research, however, I attend to the different intimacies and knowledges that are produced in these different styles of monitoring.

Drawing on ethnographic research on fetal heart rate monitoring in midwifery practices in Germany, I follow the affective relations that are created between fetal monitoring devices, women, midwives, and children. In continuous monitoring practices the coordination between health care staff, women and children takes place via shared intimate knowledge of the child's heartbeat. In order to produce 'good heartbeats' midwives, women, and children have to invest and actively participate. I demonstrate intermittent monitoring practices that are flexibly mobilized to build increasingly intimate relationships between woman, child and midwife. Hearing and knowing how to hear the child's heart, which means establishing knowledgeable intimacies, is crucial to this process. Monitoring becomes backgrounded, while reciprocity in the relation between woman and child is established.

Heartbeat listening practices in pregnancy and childbirth care do not only produce knowledge or lead to particular effects, but combine knowledge production with creating intimacy. In those practices knowledge becomes intimate and intimacy holds knowledge.

Biophilic entanglements - intimate life in urban environments

Author: Des Fitzgerald (Cardiff University) email
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Short abstract

This paper is about how, in contemporary cities, the notion of 'biophilia' - the idea that humans have an innate desire for intimacy with natural and living things - is producing a new ecological politics of urban life.

Long abstract

Since the nineteenth century, scholars, planners, clinicians, designers and social reformers have understood the city as a psychogenic environment - a space in which sustained exposure to dirt, density, noise and overcrowding produces a constant sense of alienation, stress, and psychopathology. For more than a century, this perspective has sustained a distinctive affective and ecological politics of urban life - one that figures the material environment, and especially the relationship of that environment to some figuration of nature, as the primary axis for thinking and producing the liveable city.

In this paper, I report from the early stages of a project on how a range of actors are coming to understand the problems of city life as the problems of a particular organisms, with particular brains, in particular environments. In particular, I analyse the affective politics of the city, and the neuropsychoglovial research that undergirds it, through a language and practice of 'biophilia.' Rooted in EO Wilson's idea that human being have an innate affinity for intimate relationships with living things, biophilic design and planning practices situate (and seek to produce) urban nature as a source of resolution for the multiple ills of city living.

The paper asks: what does to mean to re-think the city through relations of intimacy with living things? What happens we re-think urban life though a politics of biophilic entanglement? What changes - political and affectively - when good urban life is re-made as the capacity to consummate an innate desire for natural things?

Intimacy over 'evidence': disrupting modes of knowing drug-related harm

Author: Fay Dennis (Goldsmiths, University of London) email
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Short abstract

Following the drug-body-worlds I encountered in my research with people who use drugs, and speculating on a study which explicitly engages in these collectives, I will explore how intimacy offers a way of knowing and intervening with bodies and drug affects where 'evidence' is inherently curtailed.

Long abstract

'Evidence' and 'evidence-based policy' dominate challenges to contemporary drug policy seen as 'ideological'. Nowhere is this heard louder than in response to drug-related deaths, currently at their highest levels ever in the UK. Even its strongest proponents, however, are now recognising that the evidence is not working (Stevens, 2018). Certain technologies 'known' to reduce drug-related deaths, such as drug consumption rooms, are repeatedly discredited by the Home Office (2018). This paper explores the value of intimacy as an 'otherwise' to knowing drug-related harm and death.

Taking my lead from the drug-body-worlds I encountered in my doctoral ethnographic research with people who inject drugs (predominantly heroin and crack cocaine), I approach drug-using bodies as more-than-human processes, made up of substances, 'paraphernalia', technologies, discourses etc., and their health and illness or 'power to act' (Deleuze, 1992) as constituted through these relations.

Taking these observations further and responding to calls for 'onto-politically oriented drug research' (Fraser, 2017), I explore 'intimacy' as a way of engendering new kinds of bodies and drug affects. Indeed, I will speculate on a project starting in June in which I seek to explicitly engage publics, through arts-based methods, as a form of experiment (Lezaun et al. 2017), an intimate experiment, for curating 'healthier' drug-body-worlds.

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.