Tag: social control

Bioethics Blogs

Web Roundup: Something Rotten – Scent, Morality, Good and Evil by Sara M Bergstresser

A well-known quote from Hamlet is “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” This, of course, refers to the illegitimate and immoral reign of the fictional King Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle. So, while there is plenty of current relevance related to the political and social turmoil hinted at by this line, instead let’s talk about another aspect that I find particularly fascinating — the connection of scent and odor to ideas of morality, good, and evil.

In an odd turn of events, I recently found myself trying to explain to some chemistry students why a quote saying that someone “smells of sulfur” means that they are diabolical, hellish, or somehow antichrist-like. Why sulfur? No, there is really no connection to sulfur’s having an identical number of valence electrons to oxygen, though that would make an interesting story. Some explanation of the history of sulphurous scent as diabolical can be found here: The Smell of Hell: Does Satan Smell of Rotten Eggs?   Connections between scent and good and evil actually abound. Fragrantica has a number of excellent articles about the historical and cultural meanings of scent, including Elena Vosnaki’s A Diabolical Whiff: Scents of Hell:

It was sorcerers during the Middle Ages who, suspected to be in cahoots with the devil, were considered to be sulphurous smelling themselves. Given that these were often “wise women” dealing in pharmacopoeia, of which sulphurous materials did make a part, wouldn’t it be evident that handling them would lend them that odor? Try to prove it to the ecclesiastical courts!

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.

Bioethics Blogs

Not Getting Closure: Reflecting on the Vindication of Gaetan Dugas by Greg Clinton

Now drowned in the torrent of post-election analysis, on October 26, 2016, the journal Nature published a study which traced genomic data in an effort to map the spread of HIV in North America. The newsworthy conclusion of the study was a full-throated scientific vindication of Gaetan Dugas, the man erroneously dubbed “Patient Zero” in Randy Shilts’ And the Band Played On, a popular depiction of the spread of HIV in the United States during the early 1980s. Dugas was a French-Canadian flight attendant who became a person of interest in the epidemiological detection of HIV in its early days, since he had had sexual contact with so many of the early cases on the West Coast. The original researchers dubbed him “patient ‘O’” (for “outside”); Shilts and others translated this as “patient ‘0’”, or the index case. Shilts also portrayed Dugas as willingly careless and negligent. The study published in Nature concluded that Dugas was not the index case in North America; his demonization by Shilts and other media has been corrected.

The fervor over this vindication — garnering editorials and spots in The New York Times (here and here), NPR, the Chicago Tribune, New York Magazine, and Science magazine, among others — led me to reflect on the spectacle of disease narratives, not only what they emphasize, but what they tend to obscure. Epidemics are both disease events and media events. The spectacle of disease — the “literary” construction of a disease event in media, especially visual media — constitutes the social and political force of epidemics.

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.

Bioethics Blogs

Web Roundup: Ethical Technology, Moral Medicine by Emily Goldsher-Diamond

Researchers at MIT have launched Moral Machine, a web project to help gauge human perspectives on “moral decisions made by machine intelligence.” The project comes in the wake of a new Science study regarding the complicated tangle of ethics and driverless cars, where the classic ‘trolley problem’ has been scaled up for new technology. Scientific American, weighing in, writes that real autonomy for new vehicles hinges not on manufacturer issues but on the moral and ethical dilemmas inherent in the new technology. Consumer demand is high and climbing. Mainstream discussions, however, continue to black box the ethical and moral within larger questions about safety systems. The Atlantic traces the driverless car back to the 1920s, where desire was driven by “the promise of improved safety.” Similarly, Volvo’s ongoing Future of Driving survey, while heavy on questions of safety and trust, makes no mention of whether or not driverless vehicles have ethics or ought to be moral. Today’s news, that BMW has secured partnerships with Mobileyes and Intel, ensures that the debates around autonomous vehicles are sure to intensify.

MIT Technology Review has written about Kevin Esvelt’s campaign to regulate gene drives in order to avoid “doomsday” outcomes. Esvelt’s vision for a safe gene drive is distinctly caught up in moral projects. A safe gene drive–one built around transparency and community input–is “a way to rectify what [Esvelt] considers a larger failing of the universe, which is that evolution itself “has no moral compass.”…Gene drives, by giving humankind the ability to fine-tune the battle for survival, could make the world a more just place.”

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.

Bioethics Blogs

In the Journals – June 2016, Part I by Anna Zogas

Here are some articles published in June that may be of interest. Enjoy!

Medical Anthropology Quarterly

Cancer and the Comics: Graphic Narratives and Biolegitimate Lives
Juliet McMullin

Cancer graphic narratives, I argue, are part of a medical imaginary that includes representations of difference and biomedical technology that engage Fassin’s (2009) concept of biolegitimacy. Framed in three parts, the argument first draws on discourses about cancer graphic narratives from graphic medicine scholars and authors to demonstrate a construction of universal suffering. Second, I examine tropes of hope and difference as a biotechnical embrace. Finally, I consider biosociality within the context of this imaginary and the construction of a meaningful life. Autobiographical graphic narrative as a creative genre that seeks to give voice to individual illness experiences in the context of biomedicine raises anthropological questions about the interplay between the ordinary and biolegitmate. Cancer graphic narratives deconstruct the big events to demonstrate the ordinary ways that a life constructed as different becomes valued through access to medical technologies.

“Time with Babe”: Seeing Fetal Remains after Pregnancy Termination for Impairment
Lisa M. Mitchell

Some North American hospitals now offer parents the opportunity to see, hold, and photograph fetal remains after pregnancy loss. I explore the social, material, and interpretive strategies mobilized to create this fetal visibility after second trimester–induced abortion for fetal anomaly. My analysis examines both the discursive framing of fetal remains in practice guidelines on pregnancy loss and the responses of a group of Canadian women to being offered “time with babe.” I show that while guidelines tend to frame contact with fetal remains as a response to women’s desires to see their baby and to feel like mothers, women’s experiences of this contact were shaped by more diverse wishes and concerns as well as by specific abortion practices and practitioner comments and actions.

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.

Bioethics Blogs

Top of the Heap: Anna Waldstein by Hannah Gibson

[For this installment of the Top of the Heap series, I spoke with Anna Waldstein, who is an ecological anthropologist and lecturer in medical anthropology and ethnobotany at Kent University, UK.]  

In response to discussions with my colleagues about ways to encourage our students to read more ethnographies, I designed a new assignment for “Anthropology of Health, Illness and Medicine,” the last time I taught it. Students were asked to read an ethnographic study with a medical anthropology theme (i.e. a “medical ethnography”) and to present a synopsis to their seminar group. My ulterior motive was to encourage students to read some of the medical ethnographies at the top of my heap, so that I could at least learn more about them, if I could not get around to reading them myself. In this respect, the assignment was only partially successful. The books at the top of my list were either not selected by any of the students, or were read by students in the seminar groups led by my colleague. However, several books that were (originally) much closer to the bottom of the heap (and some not even on the list of recommended ethnographies) generated memorable class discussions and have piqued my interest.

As I am getting ready to send my publisher the final version of my own forthcoming book on the “Hispanic health paradox” and “health sovereignty” in the United States, Gálvez’s (2011) Patient Citizens, Immigrant Mothers: Mexican Women, Public Prenatal Care, and the Birth-weight Paradox is at the top of the heap of books that I need to finish reading.

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.

Bioethics Blogs

Reducing Tobacco Use Through Withdrawal Policies: When Should We Ban the Use of a Harmful Product?

Kayhan Parsi, JD, PhD

In the first-year clinical skills course at our medical school, we offer a session on tobacco cessation. In this part of our course, we emphasize to our medical students the significant costs tobacco use incurs. The costs to health are now well documented. The financial costs are substantial as well. We teach our students that they can have a positive impact upon their patients’ health by utilizing motivational interviewing techniques and applying the 5 A’s of change (ask, advise, assess, assist, arrange). The students obtain some basic skills counseling patients on smoking cessation. They understand they can play a relevant role in addressing this major public health issue. And, of course, we want our clinicians to be able to influence positive health changes in their patients. But, the reality is that certain public health measures can play an even bigger role in reducing tobacco use.

Take for example the ban on indoor smoking that took place here in the state of Illinois in January of 2008. Before this legislation was passed, it faced vociferous opposition from certain trade groups, particularly the restaurant and casino lobby. The fear was that this kind of legislation would drive smoking patrons away and harm the economic interests of such entities. Smoke Free Illinois has had a dramatic impact, virtually eliminating indoor smoking in this state, and having a positive impact upon the effects of second hand smoke. Indeed, this policy is an example of withdrawing an activity that was once perfectly legal. It’s a more subtle form of withdrawing than what Schmidt is arguing for in this issue of AJOB.

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.

Bioethics Blogs

Graphic Medicine and Medical Anthropology by Dana Walrath

Introduction

When I began my graphic memoir series, Aliceheimers, it focused just on life with my mother Alice before and during dementia. But the revelatory insight that she has retained, even during the late stages of this sickness, has led me to sometimes let the character “Alice” metamorphose into an odd sort of sage. Here, she and I explore the relationship between Medical Anthropology and Graphic Medicine. Alice’s deeply held beliefs from life before dementia combine with her mind opened by dementia, allowing me to imagine a quasi-academic conversation that we never could have had in real life.

(Visual enhancement text for each page located at the bottom of the post. All page images are linked to larger versions.)

 

A writer, artist and anthropologist, Dana Walrath likes to cross borders and disciplines with her work. After years of using stories to teach medical students at University of Vermont’s College of Medicine, she turned to writing her own. Her award winning verse novel, Like Water on Stone, was completed during the year she spent as a Fulbright Scholar in Armenia. Her recently released graphic memoir Aliceheimer’s has brought her throughout North America and Eurasia to speak about the role of comics in healing including talks at TEDx Battenkill and TEDx Yerevan. Her recent essays have appeared in Slate and Foreign Policy. You can visit her at danawalrath.com.

 

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  • Panel 1 of 3.
    • Title: “Graphic Medicine and Medical Anthropology: An exogamous marriage or paraphyletic groups?”
    • Image: Two kinds of family trees: comics (Mickey Mouse ears) and medicine (medical text) combine to form graphic medicine; biological and cultural anthropology (represented by book spines with names of some anthropological sages like Boas, Kroeber, Mead Leakey, Levi-Strauss) combine to form “Medical Anthropology”.

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.

Bioethics Blogs

In the Journals – November 2015 Part I by Michelle Pentecost

Here’s comes the first round of what you’ll find ‘In the Journals’ from November. Apart from the listings below, also see the Somatosphere post on a Special Issue in Theory, Culture and Society on Transdisciplinary Problematics, which you’ll find here.

 

Medical Anthropology

Skillful Revelation: Local Healers, Rationalists, and Their ‘Trickery’ in Chhattisgarh, Central India

Helen Mary McDonald

To understand the workings of medicine, healing, placebo, belief, and rationality, medical anthropologists need to pay attention to the complex relations of various forms of revelation, contemplation, and rejoining revelation that attach to illness and healing. In this article two performances of a healing technique located in the agricultural plain of Chhattisgarh, central India, are compared: one representing scientific rationality; the other ‘blind’ superstition. In both performances the practitioner’s aim is to reveal: the local healer reveals witchcraft objects from the afflicted body; the local rationalist society reveals the healer’s technique as a fraudulent trick. Each performance shares ‘an aesthetics of revelation’—they rely on seeing or revealing to obtain their social effect. The interplay between forms of revelation, a reliance on aesthetics for the revelation, and the ways of seeing can indicate how distinctions are made (or not) between doctor and quack, expertise and gimmickry, and truth and falsehood.

 

Suicide and the ‘Poison Complex’: Toxic Relationalities, Child Development, and the Sri Lankan Self-Harm Epidemic

Tom Widger

Suicide prevention efforts in Asia have increasingly turned to ‘quick win’ means restriction, while more complicated cognitive restriction and psychosocial programs are limited. This article argues the development of cognitive restriction programs requires greater consideration of suicide methods as social practices, and of how suicide cognitive schemata form.

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.

Bioethics Blogs

In the Journals Oct 2015 – Part 1 by Francis Mckay

Hi all. Here’s the first part of this month’s roundup.

 

Configurations

Nano Dreams and Nanoworlds: Fantastic Voyage as a Fantastic Origin Story
Emily York

Fantastic Voyage, a 1966 Hollywood science fiction film based on a screenplay written by Harry Kleiner, is often associated with contemporary nanotechnology imaginings. In this article, I draw on ethnographic research conducted within a new nanoengineering department and undergraduate major to show how this film is deployed to produce a particular disciplinary and professional identity for nanoengineering. By juxtaposing my analysis of how the film is framed in the department with a close reading of the film itself, I show how both inclusions and exclusions constitute the “nano dream,” a boundary-drawing practice that constructs the nanoengineer as an intrinsically ethical identity. I further assess how the constitutive exclusions of a cultural object taken up within an epistemic community can potentially serve as the starting points for intervention—in this case, a critical pedagogy that posits a “critical nanoengineering” practice.

Number-Lines: Diagramming Irrationality in “The Phoenix and Turtle”
Adhaar Noor Desai

This article considers how changes in the concept of number allow both poets and mathematicians in the early modern period to imagine and articulate concepts that resist referential signification. Specifically, it examines how both Shakespeare’s “The Phoenix and Turtle” and Robert Recorde’s The Whetstone of Witte employ hybridized lines possessing characteristics of both discrete and continuous types of quantity in order to render irrationality. Tracing the development of a formalized poetic “number line,” which understands verses as negotiating between aural, accentual-syllabic numbers and visual inscriptions, this article claims that “The Phoenix and Turtle” functions diagrammatically.

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.

Bioethics Blogs

In the Journals, September 2015 (Part 1) by Anna Zogas

Here is the first round of “In the Journals” for September. Happy autumn reading!

American Anthropologist

Commitments of Debt: Temporality and the Meanings of Aid Work in a Japanese NGO in Myanmar
Chika Watanabe

The rise of debt as a mechanism of development troubles many scholars and aid practitioners. Contrary to these concerns, however, ethnographic research at a Japanese NGO in Myanmar showed that Japanese and Burmese aid workers found value in moral and monetary debt relations. In this article, I argue that these aid workers viewed indebtedness as a precondition for the making of voluntary actors, willing and committed to aid work. What they problematized was not indebtedness but, rather, competing understandings of the appropriate temporality of a debt’s repayment. The fault lines did not appear along cultural or moral-monetary boundaries; they existed in the ways that people conceptualized voluntary actors as emerging from either long-term forms of indebted gratitude or sequences of short-term contractual agreements. While the entrapment of the poor in cycles of debt remains an increasing concern in the world, I here ask how we might understand local aid workers’ professional commitments when they do not question indebtedness as a moral framework.

Rich Sentiments and the Cultural Politics of Emotion in Postreform Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Allen L. Tran

Linking socioeconomic and personal transformations, recent scholarship on neoliberalism in East and Southeast Asia has examined the role of various emotional experiences in reconfiguring selfhood toward values of personal responsibility and self-care. However, studies rarely focus on how such experiences come to be understood as specifically emotional themselves.

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.