The HPS Research Seminar Series runs on selected Mondays during Semester time.

All Welcome. No Booking Required. Free

Please note NEW START TIME: 5:45


Best access to CCANESA is from the Eastern Avenue entrance of the Madsen Building. When you enter you will be on the 3rd floor. Please proceed across the foyer and take the stairs on the right up one floor. The door to CCANESA will be straight ahead on this landing

Research Seminar Series - Semester 1, 2016
Date Venue Speaker Topic
August 8th


Katie Tabb

Columbia University

 "The Prospect of Precision Psychiatry: Some Ethical and Epistemological Concerns"

Abstract: Like other medical researchers, many psychiatrists have embraced what’s been heralded as a transformative new paradigm: “precision medicine,” the search for drug therapies based on an improved understanding of disease processes, especially at the molecular and genetic levels. The first part of this talk is medical-ethical: I will explain the notion of “precision psychiatry,” which has recently been championed by the USA’s National Institute of Mental Health, and argue that the program is problematic from a social-justice standpoint. I introduce the term “diachronic justice” to illustrate the sort of problem I have in mind: that precision medicine favors future, advantaged patients over current, disadvantaged ones. However, for reasons that will become clear, assessments of diachronic justice must be informed by the state of medical research and practice. The second half of the talk, therefore, provides such an assessment, presenting joint work with Maël Lemoine (Tours). We argue that the model of precision medicine that is showing promise in fields like oncology is currently inapplicable to psychiatry, which lacks the sorts of biomarkers that allow for precise interventions. Following Bechtel and Richardson, we describe such biomarkers as providing direct localizations, and distinguish them from two other sorts of biomarkers that are to be found in psychiatry. We argue that calling psychiatry “precise” on the basis of biomarkers that do not provide direct localization encourages unreasonable optimism about research strategies that cannot, as of yet, impact clinical care. I conclude by returning to a consideration of the ethical repercussions of such optimism. 


August 15th


Suman Seth

Science and Technolgy Studies

Cornell University

"Pathologies of Blackness: Race-Medicine, Slavery and Abolitionism"

This paper explores the relationships between race, medicine, abolitionism, and slavery within the British Empire in the second half of the eighteenth century. While the literature on abolitionist debates is large, comparatively little attention has been paid to the role played—on either side—by medical men. As we will see, however, relationships between medicine, climate, and disease were critical for a debate that turned on who was to blame for the inhuman and near-unimaginable losses of human life due to the ‘seasoning’ or whether black bodies were essential for the cultivation of sugar under a blazing New World sun. Medical men and medical logics were marshaled in arguments over African inferiority and the very question of their humanity. And doctors, surgeons, midwives and others all participated in ongoing discussions over the question of the single or multiple origins of different ‘races.’ As abolitionist critiques provoked changes—more or less cosmetic—doctors became even more thoroughly imbricated within the slave system. From the 1760s one begins to find medical texts written on ways to handle the initial seasoning and later care of slaves. From the 1780s, the writings of men who claimed to administer to the medical needs of thousands of slaves per year were cited, critiqued, and debated in parliamentary sessions devoted to the question of the continuation of the trade within the British Empire. Abolitionists, I show, excoriated planters for the death and suffering—from disease, neglect, and harsh treatment—of the slaves they owned, while some West-Indian doctors used their experiences to offer apologia and negations of precisely these charges.

August 22nd

CCANESA Meeting Room

Madsen Building

Eva Jablonka

Tel Aviv University

Learning and minimal consciousness: an evolutionary connection?


(work done with Simona Ginsburg and Zohar Bronfman)


Inspired by an  origin-of-life research program, I (and my colleagues) propose an evolutionary-transition approach to the study of minimal consciousness – the most basic (non-reflective) subjective feeling that includes exteroceptive (e.g. visual, olfactory), interoceptive (e.g. pain, hunger, thirst) and proprioceptive (e.g. bodily position and movement) experiences. Our goal is to identify an evolutionary transition marker for minimal consciousness – the phylogenetically earliest overt trait that is sufficient for ascribing minimal consciousness to an animal. We  suggest that the transition marker for minimal animal consciousness is unlimited associative learning (UAL). We characterize UAL  at the behavioral and functional levels and argue that the attributes of UAL’s enabling system (the system that enables its developmental construction and maintenance) correspond to the properties that philosophers and cognitive scientists attribute to a biological system manifesting minimal consciousness.  Since UAL had evolved during the Cambrian, we propose that minimal consciousness evolved during this era in the context of selection for UAL.


September 12th

CCANESA Meeting Room

Sonja Van Wichelen

Dept Sociology

University of Sydney

"Legitimating Life: Adoption as Postcolonial Technoscience"

 September 19th

CCANESA Meeting Room

Madsen Building

John Norton

Dept of HPS

University of Pittsburgh


 October 10th

CCANESA Meeting Room

Madsen Building


 Blaise Dufal

Groupe d'Anthropologie Scolastique


  “Anthropological approaches to medieval scholasticism”


 October 17th

 CCANESA Meeting Room

Dr. Mirjam Brusius

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 Archeology, Heritage and Science Studies