Banner Seminars

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


28 July, 2011: Dr Melinda Cooper, University of Sydney

Experimental Labour, Contingent Bodies



11 August, 2011: Professor Alison Bashford, University of Sydney

Anti-Colonial Climates: Physiology, Ecology, and the Politics of Global Population, 1920s-1960s



25 August, 2011: Professor Nicolas Rasmussen, University of New South Wales

Fatness 1950: Weight Stigma, Psychiatric Medicine, and Pharma in Midcentury America

Obesity and overweight are today recognised as subjects of harmful stigma. Through an analysis of discussions of obesity in major American newspapers, the medical literature, and pharmaceutical advertising in the 1930s, ‘40s and ‘50s, I document a significant shift in medical thinking about overweight and obesity based in psychiatry, and explore the relationship of that shift to changes in popular understandings of fatness after the Second World War. I argue that the psychiatrically-oriented postwar medical thinking about obesity was more stigmatising as compared with the endocrinologically-oriented thinking of the interwar period, in that the newer biomedical theory linked fatness to the already stigmatised condition of addiction and authorised attribution of moral blame to the fat. I further argue that the pharmaceutical industry cannot be assigned the lead role in medicalisation in this period that some authors attributed to it. These events cast doubt on the received view of fatness as subject to decreasing stigma and increasing medicalisation over the course of the twentieth century, and call for exploration of the social factors influencing specific forms of medicalisation.


08 September, 2011: Dr Michael Sappol, The National Library of Medicine Bethesda, Maryland USA

Spectacles of layering & transparency in 19th- & 20th-century anatomy

This is a story about how, in the 19th and 20th century, people made flap anatomies, topographic anatomies, and anatomical transparencies that mimetically referred back to the three (and sometimes four) dimensionality of the lived body. It’s about topographical cross-sectional anatomy - in which the frozen or mummified body was cut into successive layers that were then transcribed as pages of a book or a sequence of prints or slides or actual specimens. And how topographic anatomy influenced, and was in turn influenced by, flap anatomy (the technique of cutting out printed anatomical parts on paper or cardboard and assembling the parts into a layered representation of the human body). And how, in the 20th century, medical illustrators and publishers developed a new technique of three-dimensional anatomical layering: the anatomical transparency. I will argue that these anatomical productions - spectacles, toys, promotional gimmicks, objects of consumer desire - are meaningful to us because in the dis-assembly and re-assembly of bodies and images and objects, we can effect a conceptual itinerary of identifications. At some cognitive level we carry around anatomical images as a field guide or homunculus or effigy of self, which in turn refers back to our lived experience in political economic, epistemic and scopic regimes. And this cultural enterprise involves marketing, novelty, showmanship, aesthetics, technological inventiveness, and play.


03 November, 2011: Dr Helen Keane, Australian National University

Problem Drugs and Risky Patients: Methadone, Analgesia and Addiction

The constitution of addiction as an objectively verifiable medical disorder is a persistent preoccupation of drug science, most recently expressed in neuroscientific accounts of the brain dysfunction produced by long term drug use. However, the diagnosis of addiction remains inseparable from evaluations of individual conduct within specific social and medical contexts.

This presentation examines the changes proposed for the substance-related disorders in the new edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM V) due to be published 1n 2013. The proposed changes include a return to the language of addiction and a move away from the terminology of substance dependence. In addition, non-substance based compulsions will be categorised with drug and alcohol disorders for the first time. My presentation discusses the implications of these changes, the limited role of neuroscientific discourse in the DSM and the continued salience of judgments about legitimate and illegitimate drug use.


15 November, 2011: Professor Nikolas Rose, James Martin White Professor of Sociology, London School of Economics; Director, BIOS

Public Lecture: Governing Conduct in the Age of the Brain

6.00 - 7.30 pm
Law School Foyer, University of Sydney

(Please note different time/venue to the rest of the seminar series)

For more information, see Special events.


24 November, 2011: Professor Alan Petersen, Monash University

Hopeful Journeys: Biological Citizenship and Stem Cell Communities