Bioethics Blogs

Introduction: “Translating Vitalities: Spacecraft(ing)” by Judith Farquhar

Medical practice treats the body as an active field. Growth, pathology, healing, immune response, digestion, atrophy, arousal, pain, panic – none of these organic processes is stable, fixed, or indeed ‘a thing’; yet, they are all objects of interest for medicine. Medical intervention, whether it takes the form of an antibiotic or an acupuncture treatment, interrupts a flow of causes at a strategic point deemed to be crucial. Note that this point is not the cause of disease but a decisive moment in its (patho)genesis. Bodies are lived processual assemblages, as comparative medical anthropology has shown; their (our) powers and experiences extend beyond the skin and involve more than mere physical presence. The somatosphere is a site of activity, its scale and scope always emergent, always being negotiated, the specific nature of its spatiality always in question.

A processual and dynamic notion of lived embodiment informs the series of Somatosphere posts that follows this Introduction. These posts, appearing over the next six days, arise from a collaborative writing and art-making project entitled Translating Vitalities. Helped by generous funding from the Wellcome Trust[1] and the University of Chicago,[2] Translating Vitalities brings together a group of anthropologists, China scholars, artists, physicians of bio- and Chinese medicines, historians, musicians, physical scientists, and clinical researchers with the shared goal of exploring ‘translation’ – specifically that which engages with and arises from the criss-crossing vitalisms of contemporary medicines, humanities, art and science – as both a problem and an enabling space for creative trans-disciplinary engagements.

The posts in this series are a first attempt to translate our collective work into productive forms that, we hope, will engage wider audiences sharing our goals and orientations.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.