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Practising Theory in Feminist Technoscience Studies: a conversation with Suzanne Fraser and kylie valentine.

Date: 29 June 2012 Time: 8.45am-11am

Venue: TBC

Presented by:

Centre for Gender & Women's Studies, Centre for Science Studies & Department of Sociology


This is a breakfast workshop (coffee and pastries provided!) via videoconference with Australia to discuss the following issues:

  • How to put theory into conversation with empirical data, including interview data, observations and scientific literatures?
  • How to do and write interdisciplinary research?
  • How to make choices about what to use and what to set aside when writing?
  • How to work and write collaboratively?

Suzanne Fraser is an associate professor in the Centre for Women's Studies and Gender Research, School of Political and Social Inquiry, Faculty of Arts at Monash University, Melbourne. She has published widely on drug use, hepatitis C and drug treatment, including: Making disease, making citizens: The politics of hepatitis C (2011, Ashgate, with Kate Seear), The drug effect: Health, crime and society (2011, Cambridge, edited with David Moore). She is currently working on a new book in this field with David Moore and Helen Keane. Entitled Habits: Rethinking addiction, it is due out in 2013. Suzanne is also the author of Cosmetic Surgery, gender and culture (Palgrave, 2003) and Vanity: 21st century selves (In press, Palgrave, with Claire Tanner and JaneMaree Maher).

kylie valentine is a is a Senior Research Fellow at the Social Policy Research Centre, University of South Wales, Sydney. Her research interests include the politics of (and policies for) families, children and mothers; marginalised communities and individuals; and the translation of research into politics and practice. Current and recent research projects include a qualitative study of post-diagnosis support for children with autism spectrum disorder and their families; a three-year ARC Linkage project on the needs of grandparents raising their grandchildren; and a three-year NHMRC funded project examining social aspects of methadone maintenance treatment.

Together Suzanne and kylie wrote Substance and substitution: Methadone subjects in liberal societies (2008, Palgrave): an exemplary work of interdisciplinary, empirically based, feminist technoscience studies research. They will share insights from this and new work.

Please see the abstracts below.This event is suitable for postgraduates and staff members. It is free to attend, but places are limited, so registration is required.

To book your place please e-mail Brigit Morris Colton: no later than Friday 22nd June 2012.

Suzanne Fraser: Silences and signals: The politics of medical progress on hepatitis CHepatitis C is often described as a silent epidemic. In this presentation I consider the implications of this idea of silence, exploring its operation in medical journal articles and examining the way it frames a range of key concepts in the domain of hepatitis C: medicine, people who inject drugs and scientific progress.

According to John Law, all knowledge-making processes (2004: 107) 'make silences and non-realities as well as signals and realities', but only some makers of knowledge recognise this. Scientific knowledge makers, he says, generally do not. Drawing on Law's work, this paper traces the way ideas of silence are mobilised in medical discourse to distribute responsibility and agency for transmission strategically across actors. The paper is based on 29 medical journal articles on hepatitis C published between 1989 and 2010. These were chosen to allow analysis of the ways knowledge creation about the disease is characterised within medicine. Sourced via searches of three databases(Medline, PubMed and Google Scholar), using the following keywords: 'review', 'overview', 'history', 'knowledge', 'evolution', 'current perspectives', 'new', 'to date' and 'what we know', the articles cover a range of medical specialties including hepatology, virology and immunology.

Based on this analysis I argue that characterising the disease as intrinsically silent serves medicine's image of itself as intrinsically progressive. Following Law, we might instead say that scientific methods have generated certain silences while amplifying sometimes unhelpful signals. In doing so, they freight responsibility for these silences in the disease itself and by implication in those who have it.

kylie valentine: What subatomic particles can tell us about child protection, or, Karen Barad in social policy Child welfare is, famously, a 'wicked' policy problem, a term that emerged in the 1970s from urban planning to describe governmental and social issues that cannot be neatly defined, completely understood, or permanently solved. Like other policy areas that are beset by 'wicked' problems, such as metropolitan transport planning and sustainable use or natural resources, child welfare policy has high levels of complexity and uncertainty. Partly as a result of this complexity and uncertainty, it is also characterised by extremely divergent viewpoints, perspectives and attempted policy fixes. When the term was developed, it was in explicit contrast to the natural sciences, which were described as having problems that are definable, stable and solvable. Since then, the work of Karen Barad and others has transfigured feminist understandings of the natural sciences, and with it our understanding of matter, nature, causality and phenomena. What could this mean for feminist approaches to understanding complex social arenas? If our models of social problems are based on a fictive concept of the natural sciences, what alternative models can we build? I'll discuss some of these issues, with a particular focus on three key elements of child welfare policy: the experiment, the environment, and the brain.


Who can attend: Anyone


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