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STeMS Speaker Series

STeMS events in Fall 2023 will run 4:00-5:30pm in 1014 Tisch Hall.
Free and open to the public. Lecture recordings are posted here for two weeks after the event.

Fall 2023

Monday, 2 October  POSTPONED
From Biosociality to Biomythography: Toward A Postgenomic Contemporaneity of Ancestry
Victoria Massie, Rice University

Co-sponsor: Department of African and Afroamerican Studies

For the past two decades, genetic ancestry testing has become one of the quintessential examples of biosociality, providing scholars in the anthropology of science and medicine language to not grapple with how social inequalities like race have been at risk of reification through genetic information. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork on genetic reconnection programs in Cameroon, this talk asks how we might consider the limits of biosociality for grappling with the contours of postgenomic contemporaneity. How could a reframing of the knowledge production processes involving African ancestry challenge the biosocial telos? And how might biomythography provide an important methodology for reexamining the multiscalar processes of racialization that are (and are not) taking shape amongst “contemporaneous” ancestors?

Monday, 23 October
Count Me In: How Quantification Shapes Knowledge Politics in Contemporary Higher Education
Juan Pablo Pardo-Guerra, University of California, San Diego

Co-sponsors: Department of Sociology, Center for Ethics, Society and Computing, Institute for Social Research

How is knowledge organized in higher education? In recent decades, the adoption of market-oriented logics within institutions of research and higher education had notable implications on how the pursuit of knowledge is shaped and rewarded. A number of authors have documented how the "commercialization of science" had consequences on the quality of knowledge produced in particular research settings. Backed by distinct cultures of quantification and tied to concrete devices measurement and commensuration, the broader audit cultures that embed modern research shape what we know and can know. In this talk, I explore instances of these cultures by looking into the
role of research assessments and budget models as mechanisms for shaping and regulating how universities structure their instructional and research operations. This talk shows how several techniques of quantification become important for implementing change in higher education with long-lasting consequences for the distribution of knowledge, the organization of the sciences, and
the structure of the public sphere.

Monday, 6 November
In the Flow: Affect and Protocol in US Medical Practice
Scott Stonington, U-M Anthropology and Medical School

Why do biomedical clinicians sometimes practice contrary to their own expertise? Medicine is often described as a modernist project in search of a universal “view from nowhere.” In this talk, I show how this view systematically breaks down due to the impingement of sensation, emotion, affect and social forces into the embodied “flow” of moving in and against time in clinical practice. Using ethnographic and autoethnographic data, I present paradoxes of counter-protocol medical decisions from a variety of contexts in the U.S. that cease to be paradoxical if we step into clinicians’ embodied worlds.

Monday, 4 December
The History of ‘Impairment’
Mara Mills, New York University

Co-sponsors: Departments of American Culture; Communication and Media; Center for Ethics, Society, and Computing; UM Initiative on Disability Studies

“Impairment” is a key term in Anglophone disability studies and medical discourse, referring to physical difference, limitation, or injury. When disability scholars and activists critique the definition of impairment, they generally place the concept in the genealogy of medicalization and inappropriate pathologization. Yet as this talk will show, the history of impairment is as bureaucratic and actuarial as it is medical. Popularized by the American life insurance industry in the early twentieth century, "impairment" indicates rating as well as diagnosis—the attachment of value, risk, or financial loss to particular traits. Specifically, impairment emerged as a form of information for corporate surveillance when life insurance companies joined with the Library Bureau in the 1890s to pool data on “impaired risks” among applicants. This talk is drawn from a forthcoming article by Mara Mills and Dan Bouk, written after years of speculation among the authors that our areas of expertise—the history of disability and technology (Mills) and the history of life insurance (Bouk)—have more than a passing affinity.