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Nocebos & Meaning-Making: A Call for Abstracts

We’re delighted that our panel, Nocebos, Nocebo Studies, and STS: Meaning-Making and Recalcitrance, has been accepted for the upcoming meeting of 4S.  This session will be organized/chaired by Ada Jaarsma (Mount Royal University), Suze Berkhout (University of Toronto), and Khadija Coxon (McGill-Queen’s University Press).  4S will take place in Prague, August 18-21; here’s the link to more conference information.

Here’s our call for abstracts:

Nocebos, described by some as placebo’s evil twin, are unwelcome yet inextricable elements of medical treatment. In the mid-twentieth century, practices of informed consent were eliciting such pervasive adverse effects that researchers coined the term “Nocebo Effect” to render such impacts recognizable. Rather than anticipations of healing, the nocebo effect expresses expectations of harm—like side effects that emerge even when patients or trial participants receive placebos. While they are rarely familiar to the broader public, nocebo effects are intimately part of the array of interactions with which individuals relate to biomedicine. Nocebos point to the porous lines between bodies and epistemologies and between clinics and daily lives; as experiments in the burgeoning field of Nocebo Studies suggest, learning one’s genetic predispositions for disease or encountering media coverage of a generic drug’s ineffectiveness contribute to negative outcomes. Nocebos dramatize a liveliness that Isabelle Stengers and Vincianne Despret describe as “recalcitrance.” At odds with bifurcating logics that keep “matter” and “meaning” apart, nocebos animate a kind of meaning-making that is palpable, involuntary, and unwanted. This panel seeks to contribute to STS by exploring how nocebos and Nocebo Studies draw attention to the ontological choreography of biomedicine, such as the assemblages, practices or relations that constitute medical treatment and research. We welcome papers that examine the import of nocebos—broadly construed—for resistance to the norms and curative ambitions of medical treatment. And we invite presenters to make use of creative or new methodologies for identifying, interpreting and making sense of nocebo effects.

The deadline for submissions is Feb 29, 2020; here’s the link to submit a 250-word abstract.

Book symposium begins this week

I’m delighted that an interactive symposium on my book, hosted by the wonderful site Syndicate, has begun this week.   The Learning Gene emerged as a pedagogical project directly out of this book project, especially chapter 5 (which is titled “Tomatoes in the Classroom”).   I found it to be enormously useful, receiving four sets of commentaries on the book (each of which I’ve crafted responses to).  It’s fascinating to note how this book, once published, has transformed into open-ended and dynamic conversations about form, perspective, the relations between knowledge and existence, and the very nature of hope (and despair).  Over the next four weeks, each commentary and response will be published on Syndicate. I’m excited to find out what new questions and problems emerge from these conversations.

Book cover of Kierkegaard after the Genome

Podcasting & Process event series

Here’s an updated line-up of our Podcasting & Process event series.   Everyone is welcome!

Jan 12, 7pm @ Loft 112:  “Politics,” featuring Kate Jacobson (CJSW) and Azren Raju (The Language Nerd)

Feb 1, 8:30am in the Visualization Lounge, first floor of Riddell Library, Mount Royal University:  Guy Obrecht, performing Alvin Lucier’s “We are sitting in a room” (1969)

Feb 8, 10am in the Visualization Lounge, first floor of Ridell Library, MRU:  Mickey Vallee, talking about “Voice, Intimacy & Control: Intersections in Sound & Science Studies”

Feb 9, 7pm @ Loft 112:  “Sound,” featuring Mickey Vallee, talking about “Soundscape Cartography in Northern Alberta”

March 2, 7pm @ Loft 112:  “Design,” featuring Meg Wilcox (Journalism at MRU) and Sean Perrin (Clarineat podcast)

There will be beer/cider by donations at the Loft 112 events; Loft 112 is wheelchair accessible through the front library, and washroom is gender neutral.   These events are sponsored by the Faculty of Arts and Department of Humanities at Mount Royal University, as well as Pod Summit.


Starting in the Middle (part 2)

Although the podcast The Learning Gene hasn’t yet launched, the broader project has been underway for a full year.  This past year, two groups of students have worked on the project in the context of a Feminist Philosophy class (in fall 2016) and a Philosophy of Science class (in winter 2017).  You can peruse the full slate of assignments, readings and lesson plans of Feminist Philosophy and Philosophy of Science, if you’d like to learn more about the background of the project.  And you can listen to the students’ audio projects here.

I decided to share my own first-ever audio essay as a pre-episode to The Learning Gene—in advance of the podcast’s launch.  It’s posted here on this site in the spirit of “starting in the middle.”  It’s actually a key backdrop to the podcast because it contains the project’s tagline:  listening to things we don’t know how to listen for.  This is something that Erin Manning expressed during our skype-conversation about teaching, and it captures the essentially open-ended ethos of this project.  The audio-essay itself, however, remains somewhat of a draft (which is why it won’t be part of the official Season 1 of the podcast).

There are pedagogical reasons for sharing work that is provisional or not-entirely-polished, I think.  Bhanu Kapil, the amazingly astute poet and post-colonial thinker, explains for example that there’s no rushing the process of creative work.  A narrative becomes itself in time, she writes.  And she really means it:  writing requires duration.  It can be so painful, this experience of the duration in which writing takes place, that she created a chant to accompany her own writing process:  “I learned how to re-write my work with as much passion and joy and curiosity as I had given to the writing of it.  I even invented a chant:  Re-writing is writing.  Writing is re-writing.” Read more

Starting in the Middle (part 1)

I am in the process of launching a podcast, The Learning Gene, as part of a bigger project that brings audio together with philosophy, science studies and pedagogy.

I’m sharing a pre-episode to the podcast in the spirit of starting in the middle.    The podcast will launch with actual episodes shortly.  As Isabelle Stengers writes, “What is unknowable is unknown” (2011, 261).  Put otherwise, we don’t know what we don’t know.  We start in the middle as a way to encounter the unknown.  (Of course, “the unknown” could be a matter of concepts and relationships…. but it could also be a matter of craft, design and genre.  I’ve left in some truly terrible audio quality in this pre-episode, for example– in part because I’m still not sure why the tape is so garbled in this rendered mp3!  There’s a moment in my interview with Erin Manning in which I say, “Hi, Erin, it’s Ada!”  but in the rendered version, you can barely hear a thing.  I’m still mystified at what went wrong in the sound design process here). Read more