Banner Seminars

The Refectory Room
SW corner of the Main Quad, downstairs
The University of Sydney

17 March, 2011: Dr Rozanna Lilley, University of Sydney

Maternal Intimacies: Discussing Autism Diagnosis

31 March, 2011: Dr Martin French, Queen’s University (CA)

Viropolitics: HIV Prevention and the Criminalization of Non-Disclosure

In Canada, between 1989-2009, it is estimated that 104 criminal charges were laid in relation to HIV non-disclosure, in the context of sexual relations (Mykhalovskiy et al. 2010). The bulk of these charges came in the wake of a landmark 1998 Supreme Court decision-R. v. Cuerrier-and have earned Canada ‘the unsettling (dis)honour of being a world leader in criminalizing HIV exposure’ (Symington 2009: 9). Drawing from previous studies (Mykhalovskiy et al. 2010), as well as from interviews with public health professionals, this paper considers the impact of the criminalization of non-disclosure on public health practice, and specifically on HIV testing and counseling. It also advances the concept of viropolitics to theorize the emergent vital politics of public health that are taking shape in relation to the criminalization of non-disclosure.

Martin French is a SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellow with the Department of Sociology at Queen's University in Canada. His research involves empirically specifying and assessing the information-processing practices of organisations, with particular attention to how information is used to shape and govern individual and social bodies. Currently Martin is investigating how circuits of information traverse and connect the institutions of law and science. His present focus is upon public-health practice, and specifically upon how public-health professionals understand and navigate their sometimes incommensurate obligations to serve clients whilst protecting the broader population. In addition to serving the pragmatic goal of highlighting and mobilizing innovative public-health practices, this research advances a novel concept - 'viropolitics' - to describe an emergent, vital politics of public health.

12 May, 2011: Dr Caroline Croser, University of New South Wales

The Accident in Security: Bushfires, Electricity Networks, and Repoliticising Repair

The accident plays an important part in contemporary imaginings of security. This paper examines critical theorists such as Massumi and Cooper, who argue the contemporary disaster is mobilising a biopolitics of security whose purpose is managing life in and through crisis. Having outlined this critique of the accident, the paper turns to the under-explored question of how to best utilise this insight. Following the approach suggested by theorists such as Mol and Law, the paper suggests that perhaps the best way of undermining the accidental biopolitics of security is to “doubt” the role of the accident in establishing this biopolitics. To elaborate the possibilities of this politics of doubt, this paper examines the role of electricity networks in the 2009 Victorian bushfires, which killed 173 people and destroyed 2,000 homes. It is possible to treat these fires as an exemplar of the contemporary accident. However, this paper explores the material politics which led to the specific distribution of bushfire danger on that day. Electricity network-related bushfires are not (just) a contingent and complex risk managed via a biopolitics of security; they are (also) a danger that emerge from a specific configuration of people and things, specifically, the material condition of Victoria's electricity networks. Here, I follow Graham and Thrift in proposing we make visible a politics of repair and maintenance. However, contra Graham and Thrift, I suggest that far from being invisible, the discipline of 'engineering asset management' is increasingly disciplining maintenance practices, diminishing open space for establishing a counter-politics.

2 June, 2011: Dr Peta Cook, University of Tasmania

The Textures of Globalization: Biopolitics and the Closure of Xenotourism

In this paper, I will explore the tensions around a recent controversial development in medical tourism: xenotourism in Mexico. This bioendeavor – now ceased – is emblematic of the global character of contemporary biomedicine, providing insights into the production and operation of scientific knowledge. This is explored through what I term the “textures of globalization”: the anxiety regarding the extent to which Mexico was understood as an (in)appropriate venue for the generation of novel knowledge on xenotransplantation (animal-to-human transplantation), and as a location for xenotourism (a form of medical tourism whereby the recipient receives a xenotransplant). These tensions, which oscillated between calls for individual freedom (choice) and global regulation (standardization), ultimately led to the closure of xenotourism in Mexico.