Cultures and Knowledge Workshop - Melanie Jeske

January 13th, 2023

On Monday, January 23rd, the Institute on the Formation of Knowledge will present "Organs and Humans on Chips: Biomedical Models and the Political Economy of Innovation" as part of the Cultures & Knowledge Worskshop Series. This workshop will be presented by Melanie Jeske.

Register HERE for in-person registration

Register HERE for Zoom access

Description: In the wake of mounting concerns regarding translational failure between bench research to bedside therapies, new actors, fields, and technologies now promise to disrupt existing biomedical research practices. In this talk, Jeske offers a sociological account of novel biomedical models called organ chips that promise to do just this. Organ chips are models of human organs that have the potential to transform pharmaceutical testing and provide new insights into human pathophysiology by replacing animal models and bringing “the human” into the earliest stages of biomedical research. Jeske will discuss how organ chips emerge as productive and valuable tools, tracing how they are imagined and brought into fruition by a diverse set of actors across government, industry, and academic sectors. The ways in which the translational crisis is constructed fuel particular formations of research teams, funding structures, and kinds of health interventions, that together render organ chips the ‘right’ tool for resolving the translational crisis. Jeske will illuminate how the very notion of a model being human enough is socially negotiated and argue that the interests that elevate these technologies and their value, also shape their very design. Join us, as Jeske excavates the sociality of scientific work and the power relations at play in shaping the production of novel biomedical technologies.

Below is a list of further reading on the topic compiled by Dr. Jeske:

Biomedicalization: Technoscience, Health, and Illness in the U.S. 
Edited by Adele E. Clarke, Laura Mamo, Jennifer Ruth Fosket, Jennifer R. Fishman, and Janet K. Shim

The rise of Western scientific medicine fully established the medical sector of the U.S. political economy by the end of the Second World War, the first “social transformation of American medicine.” Then, in an ongoing process called medicalization, the jurisdiction of medicine began expanding, redefining certain areas once deemed moral, social, or legal problems (such as alcoholism, drug addiction, and obesity) as medical problems. The editors of this important collection argue that since the mid-1980s, dramatic, and especially technoscientific, changes in the constitution, organization, and practices of contemporary biomedicine have coalesced into biomedicalization, the second major transformation of American medicine. This volume offers in-depth analyses and case studies along with the groundbreaking essay in which the editors first elaborated their theory of biomedicalization.

Culturing Life: How Cells Became Technologies 
by Hannah Landecker

How did cells make the journey, one we take so much for granted, from their origin in living bodies to something that can be grown and manipulated on artificial media in the laboratory, a substantial biomass living outside a human body, plant, or animal? This is the question at the heart of Hannah Landecker’s book. Rather than focus on single discrete biotechnologies and their stories—embryonic stem cells, transgenic animals—Landecker documents and explores the wider genre of technique behind artificial forms of cellular life. She traces the lab culture common to all those stories, asking where it came from and what it means to our understanding of life, technology, and the increasingly blurry boundary between them. The technical culture of cells has transformed the meaning of the term “biological,” as life becomes disembodied, distributed widely in space and time. Once we have a more specific grasp on how altering biology changes what it is to be biological, Landecker argues, we may be more prepared to answer the social questions that biotechnology is raising. 

Fatal Invention: How Science, Politics, and Big Business Recreate Race in the Twenty-first Century
by Dorothy Roberts

Fatal Invention examines how the myth of the biological concept of race continues to undermine a just society and reproduce inequality. Commercial genetic testing reinforces the idea that genes map neatly onto race, all while generating massive stores of data in DNA databases. Race-specific drugs are hailed as steps toward personalized, patient-responsive medicine. Facial recognition technologies using machine learning claim it possible to estimate a racialized criminal phenotype. Roberts argues that this new racial science threatens to re-solidify a monstrous fiction, one that rather than solving the complex problems facing our stratified society will instead cement them for years to come.

Creating the Market University: How Academic Science Became an Economic Engine
by Elizabeth Popp Berman 

American universities today serve as economic engines, performing the scientific research that will create new industries, drive economic growth, and keep the United States globally competitive. But only a few decades ago, these same universities self-consciously held themselves apart from the world of commerce. Creating the Market University is the first book to systematically examine why academic science made such a dramatic move toward the market. Drawing on extensive historical research, Elizabeth Popp Berman shows how the government—influenced by the argument that innovation drives the economy—brought about this transformation. Contributing to debates about the relationship between universities, government, and industry, Creating the Market University sheds light on how knowledge and politics intersect to structure the economy.

The Body Multiple: Ontology in Medical Practice
by Annemarie Mol

The Body Multiple is an extraordinary ethnography of an ordinary disease. Drawing on fieldwork in a Dutch university hospital, Annemarie Mol looks at the day-to-day diagnosis and treatment of atherosclerosis. A patient information leaflet might describe atherosclerosis as the gradual obstruction of the arteries, but in hospital practice this one medical condition appears to be many other things. From one moment, place, apparatus, specialty, or treatment, to the next, a slightly different “atherosclerosis” is being discussed, measured, observed, or stripped away. This multiplicity does not imply fragmentation; instead, the disease is made to cohere through a range of tactics including transporting forms and files, making images, holding case conferences, and conducting doctor-patient conversations. Presenting philosophical reflections on the body and medical practice through vivid storytelling, The Body Multiple will be important to those in medical anthropology, philosophy, and the social study of science, technology, and medicine.

The Right Tools for the Job: At Work in the Twentieth-Century Life Sciences
Edited by Adele Clarke and Joan Fujimura

This volume examines scientific practice through studies of research tools in an array of twentieth-century life sciences. The contributors draw upon and extend the multidisciplinary perspectives in current science studies to understand the processes through which scientific researchers constructed the right — and, in some cases, the wrong — tools for the job. The articles portray the crafting or accessing of specific materials, techniques, instruments, models, funds, and work arrangements involved in doing scientific work. They demonstrate the historical and local contingencies of scientific problem construction and solving by highlighting the articulation between the tools and jobs. Indeed, the very “rightness” of the tools is contingently constructed, maintained, lost, and refashioned.

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