biopolitics

Seminar with Melinda Cooper

15 April, 2010, Bowland North Seminar Room 23, Lancaster University

Experiments and Accidents

Melinda Cooper

16.00-18.00

All welcome

Workshop 4: Ilana Lowy, ‘‘Designer babies’: embryos and foetuses as experimental objects’

Ilana Lowy (Centre de Recherche Medicine, Science Santé et Societé (CERMES), CNRS, Paris) opened her talk stating that the dream of deciding the baby has a long tradition and practical as well as emotional importance. Lowy emphasised that it is a small object by volume but very important politically. She proceeded in explaining the recent development of perfection in medically assisted reproduction as a domesticated technique in France (women try to forget rather extraordinary measures that lead to pregnancy, naturalising stress). 

Workshop 3: Brian Balmer and Norma Morris, 'Who is the 'guinea-pig' in human experimentation?'

Brian Balmer and Norma Morris (Science and Technology Studies, UCL) discussed their empirical work and its relevance to the theme of Experimental Subjects drawing on a nine-year collaborative research project on how volunteers understand their participation in biomedical research. Their research has involved interviewing women who have volunteered for a test scan using a new medical imaging technology about their experience of being a volunteer. They discussed three ways of understanding the 'experimental subject' that they have encountered in their research. First, they argued that the healthy and patient volunteers themselves are the experimental subjects being experimented on by biophysicists, and then being interviewed by social scientists. Next, they claimed that another type of 'experimental subject' emerges from their relationship with the biophysicists and they discussed the ambiguity around this relationship as either collaborators with the biophysicists or social scientific experimenters on the biophysicists.  Thirdly, they reflexively made themselves into 'experimental subjects'  and discussed how the biophysicists and volunteers constructed their identity in the course of their interactions.

Workshop 3: Bronislaw Szerszynski, ‘Experimental time and the event of politics’

Bronislaw Szerszynski (Sociology, Lancaster University) opened his presentation stating that he wants to use it as an opportunity to develop some ideas about experimental subjection, the being subjected to an experiment. He proceeded in arguing that the force of experimentality can be used as an analogy to the force of law (Agamben, 1998; 2005).

Workshop 3: Linsey McGoey, ‘Experimental dissidence: economies of credibility in drug regulation’

Linsey McGoey’s  (Science and Technology Studies, Oxford) presentation  can be read below in the original version:

Workshop 2: Jussi Parikka, Nature as Experiment: Eco Media as a Probing of Potentialities

Jussi Parikka (ArcDigital, Anglia Ruskin University) opened his presentation with a reference to Whitehead, positioning speculative thought as a specific discipline. Parikka then proceeded in presenting two initiatives: Harwood, Wright and Yokokoji’s Eco Media ‘‘Cross Talk’’ and Garnet Hertz’s ‘Dead Media lab’. He explained how, the “Cross Talk” project tries to find processes in the natural world (“natural technics”) that could function as carriers of signals or messages. The title of ‘‘Cross Talk’’ corresponds to the prospect of these processes (in the form of materials or forces that were common to the habitats of animals) being accessible to the non-human realms as messages. Jussi Parikka argued that Garnet Hertz’s Dead Media-initiative (2009) aims towards very similar issues at the crossroads of media archaeology and ecology. Parikka positioned his presentation around the intriguing rhetorical question concerning non-human media: “Can ‘natural media’ with its different agencies and sensorium help to rethink human media, revealing opportunities for action or areas of mutual interest?“

Jussi Parikka

Jussi Parikka

Name

Jussi Parikka

Affiliation

Anglia Ruskin University, ArcDigital

Workshop 1 - Melissa Leach, 'Experimenting with Development'

Melissa Leach (STEPS, University of Sussex) opened her presentation observing that it has long been said that Africa is a laboratory, used as a site for many projects that exemplify experimentality on a narrow scale – in the sense of clinical and field trials. Following this she argued more broadly that the development project can be seen as experiment, generating its own institutions and industry; its own experimental practices; its own ways of dealing with uncertainty, evaluating and reaching closure. Leach illustrated how more broadly still a far more global ‘experimental condition’ is exemplified, as the global systemic effects of interlocked, unpredictable changes become apparent (i.e. climate change, food and energy crises, pandemics). In her talk she offered some thoughts on how experimentality operates at each of these levels and made several cross-cutting observations and arguments that apply (in different ways) to all.

Workshop 1 - Discussion - The Age of the Generalised Experiment

Discussion following ‘The Age of the Generalised Experiment’ panel with Michael Dillon and Nigel Thrift explored  three themes: that of the nature of information systems, that of the counter forces to total war, and that of the politics of the security-entertainment complex.

Workshop 1 - Michael Dillon ‘Warfare as Experiment’

Michael Dillon (Politics and International Relations, Lancaster University) opened his presentation by pointing to the two main assumptions that his approach is based on. Firstly, he argued that (modern, western, liberal) war is an experimental practise, explaining that war and experiments in science share a similar history. Secondly, Dillon pointed to the fact that war and experimentation not only go together and but are a logical formation – war is the extension of politics by other means and experiment is an extension of war by other means.

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