Banner Seminars

Seminar Room 020, (Basement) Law Annex
Sydney University

18 November, 2010: Helen Keane, ANU

Drugs that work: Pharmaceuticals and performance self-management

Room 148, RC Mills Building
Sydney University

The RC Mills Building is @ I 16 on the campus map

28 October, 2010: Lennard Davis, University of Illinois

Obsession: A Biocultural history

Obsession is both a cultural goal and a pathology in contemporary life. This talk will provide a social, cultural, political, and medical genealogy of this current state of affairs. Proposing a biocultural model for disorders like Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Davis argues that our current conceptualization of mental disorder is in need of revision.

21 October, 2010: Isabel Karpin and David Ellison, UTS and Griffith

Death Without Life: Grievability and IVF

07 October, 2010: Kane Race, University of Sydney

The Government of Liminal Consumption and the Reconfiguration of Sexual Space in Sydney

23 September, 2010: Niamh Stephenson, UNSW

The politics of global public health

09 September, 2010: Karen Throsby, University of Warwick

“You’re the expert now”: obesity surgery and governance of the fat body

02 September, 2010: Kavita Philip, UC Irvine

STS and Critical Theory: Notes from Indian Technoscience

Various modes of humanistic and social scientific theorization have become increasingly important in STS (Science and Technology Studies). This paper explores theoretical issues at the intersection of science, technology, and culture, with specific reference to contemporary India.

Kavita Philip is Associate Professor in the Department of Women's Studies, and Director of the Critical Theory Institute, UCI. She is author of Civilizing Natures (2003 and 2004), and co-editor of the volumes Constructing Human Rights in the Age of Globalization (with Monshipouri, Englehart, and Nathan, 2003), Multiple Contentions (with Skotnes, 2003), Homeland Securities (with Reilly and Serlin, 2005), and Tactical Biopolitics (with da Costa, 2008). Her research interests are in transnational histories of science and technology; feminist technocultures; gender, race, globalization and postcolonialism; environmental history; and new media theory. Her work in progress includes a monograph entitled Proper Knowledge, and a co-authored book with Terry Harpold entitled Going Native: Cyberculture and Postcolonialism.

12 August, 2010: Michelle Jamieson, UNSW

Immune communities: the politics of engaging with immune system discourse

Ed Cohen’s A Body Worth Defending: Immunity, Biopolitics and the Apotheosis of the Modern Body, forms the most recent contribution to critical engagements with immune system discourse in the humanities and social sciences. In this text, Cohen examines the emergence of ‘immunity’ as a biological fact at the end of the nineteenth century. Carefully tracing the course of immunity’s conceptual and historical development, he demonstrates how this originally juridico-political concept belonging to ancient Roman law comes to be adopted within modern immunology as a fundamental principle of organismic and human existence. Crucially, he argues that in migrating from politics and law to biomedicine and biology, juridico-political immunity takes on a tangibly corporeal existence. At the heart of this ambitious genealogical project is a question concerning the naturalisation of political concepts as biological phenomena: that is ‘immunity’s transubstantiation into biological function’ (24). How does immunity find purchase outside its original domain? How is politics realised biologically?

Insisting that immunity derives from, and is proper to, political life, Cohen argues that biological immunity signals the entry of politics into life itself. Specifically, he views biological immunity as a concrete example of biopolitics: he maintains that through immunity we have realised our politics in, or rather, as our biology. This paper critically examines Cohen’s account of how the political becomes biological. Focusing on the historical narrative he constructs to explain this transformation, it attends closely to the conceptual logic that secures his reading of biopolitics. This paper argues that Cohen’s interpretation of biopolitics as a narrative of naturalisation is grounded in the causal logic of an infection (politics infects biology). In other words, it shows that his understanding of biopolitics adheres to an orthodox interpretation of immune events, and thus inevitably, to the principle of immunity. Consequently, it demonstrates that Cohen’s analysis of immunity’s history is, paradoxically, firmly anchored in the political logic he centrally contests.

Michelle Jamieson is a PhD candidate in the School of Social Sciences and International Studies at the University of New South Wales. She is currently researching allergy, the immunological body, and psychosomatic illness in relation to the question of identity. Her publications include, 'Imagining "reactivity": allergy within the history of immunology' (forthcoming in Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences).