The Refectory Room
The Quadrangle Building
The University of Sydney

22 November, 2012: Prof Mike Michael, University of Sydney

Event and Participation: Designing the public of biomedical innovation

Please note different room: Quad Building, History Room S233

Public engagement with science and technology has become a major theme in contemporary science and technology studies. Innovations in biomedicine, biotechnology and bioscience have all been subject to public engagement activities that draw on social scientific traditions (both empirical and theoretical). This paper argues that there are alternative perspectives derived from speculative design that fundamentally challenge the ontology underpinning these ‘democratizing’ exercises. Drawing on such examples as the design of Biojewellery and the Neurscope, it is proposed that such speculative objects can be treated as ‘proactively idiotic’. In making no sense, they allow us to raise issues about the character of engagement processes, the nature of politics, and the event of social science.

08 November, 2012: Prof Susan Kippax & Dr Niamh Stephenson, University New South Wales

Is the turn to 'social drivers' working hand in glove with the proliferation of biomedical solutions to HIV prevention?

This paper examines broad shifts in global public health responses to infectious disease through one specific lens: efforts to advance HIV prevention that are informed by and engage with the social practices pertaining to disease transmission. Advancing HIV prevention that engages with social practice is challenging for a range of reasons, including epistemological (e.g. social practices are fundamentally collective unlike the familiar HIV prevention target of “individual behaviours”) and political (because social practices are fluid and specific to the contexts in which they arise, they challenge the global impetus to “scale up” and “roll out” vertically aligned, universal solutions). Currently, the concept of “social drivers” is acting as an umbrella term under which efforts to develop community led, horizontally aligned responses to HIV can collect. But can working with social drivers intervene in the intensification of biomedical responses to prevention?
In this paper we consider the disjuncture between the concepts of social practice and social drivers. In particular we examine how, in place of the collective, unpredictable and continually changing modes of agency that are core to social practice, the social drivers approach emphasises the vulnerability of populations. This deficit-model approach to populations is, we argue, supported by broader transformation in global health.
In the decade since Patton traced the entanglement of tropical health and epidemiological imaginaries at work in the global HIV, much has changed. Here we argue that there is a third imaginary shaping the response to HIV – that of securitised global health. We examine how this powerful trajectory is working, often in indirect ways, to shape the field of HIV such that the “social drivers” approach to HIV prevention risks being diverted from its community orientated goals and towards working hand in glove with the proliferation of biomedical solutions to HIV prevention.

20 September, 2012: Dr Declan Kuch, University of Newcastle

The Invidious Concept of 'Trees': The Politics of Carbon Accounting and the Kyoto Protocol

The international legal architecture to mitigate Anthropogenic Global Warming has produced a range of economising strategies, rules and devices, most notably ‘flexible mechanisms’ to trade emissions credits and permits. At the behest of welfare economists, carbon emissions trading schemes have relied upon such tradeable credits to achieve their stated reductions ‘efficiently’. However, trade in many of these credits and permits hinges upon the factual status of national carbon accounts. These accounts are intended to represent industrial and land-based greenhouse gas emissions and sequestrations within the territories of the nation-states that are parties to the Kyoto Protocol. With the advent of trading, accounting for emissions has proven to be more difficult than simply measuring them. Agreeing upon rules and classifications for anthropogenic interference with ‘trees’, as stated under Article 3 of the Kyoto Protocol, has proven to be particularly difficult. Accounting decisions associated with human interference with trees can have far-reaching consequences – such as whether any industrial emissions reductions are required within a jurisdiction to reach their overall emissions target and avoid sanctions such as penalties for non-compliance.
This paper uses the contestation of Article 3.7 – the so-called ‘Australia Clause’, after its main beneficiary – to argue that carbon accounting is not so much a matter of accurate representation. Rather, it relies upon the performance of techniques and practices to make trees visible. I examine how accounting for human interference with trees has been a site of political strategy and economic competition. Much of the existing literature on such politics has tended to focus on the human and institutional dimensions of carbon accounts – on how rules are raised and contested, and for whose gain. By contrast, I examine the techno-politics of carbon accounting – that is, how the politics of the Kyoto Protocol is not reducible to pre-existing social definitions and interests; rather it involves social group formation around issues that arise from what Michel Callon has termed the dynamic of framing and overflows. I examine the ways discourses, historical contingencies and techniques act upon the material world by making people and things – most notably ‘trees’ – calculable.

09 August, 2012: A/Prof Charlotte Krol√łkke, University of Southern Denmark

Reproductive Imaginations: 'Mediterraneanizing' the New Nordic Citizen

The transnational crossings in bodies and biogenetic material (re)produce imagined national bodies and new citizens. In this presentation, I wish to illustrate how idealized national bodies are articulated in Nordic and Spanish clinical discourses and by Nordic women travelling to Spain for egg donation. I will discuss how motherhood is brought into being by nationalized and gendered discourses on ova exchange; idealized and highly feminized (fertile, gift-giving, and voluptuous) Spanish donor bodies. While the Nordic recipients minimize national differences and draw upon imaginations of cultural resemblance including a homogenous Spanish pool of donors; clinicians in Spain frequently match what they see as Nordic fair skin and hair color with the oocytes of immigrant women from Eastern Europe.

01 August, 2012: Prof Philip Mirowski, University of Notre Dame, Indiana and Visiting Professor, University of Technology, Sydney

The Modern Commercialisation of Science is a Passel of Ponzi Schemes

Please note different time and location: 6.00-7.30pm, Law School Foyer, University of Sydney

Public lecture co-sponsored by Sydney Ideas and the Australian Working Group on Financialization.

A wide array of phenomena lumped together under the rubric of the 'commercialisation of science', the 'commodification of research', and the 'marketplace of ideas' are both figuratively and literally Ponzi schemes. This thesis grows out of my experience of working on two concurrent projects: an attempt to understand the forces behind the progressive commercialisation of science; and the second, when it dawned upon me that the financial crisis then unfolding was resulting in the deepest worldwide economic contraction since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
This lecture explores the parallels in three different areas: the biotech sector, technology transfer offices at major universities, and possible decline of numbers of American-authored papers in major science journals.

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