From the Microscopic to the Global: Scaling in Medical Science and Technology (IUAES 2015)

First attempt with materials from Vietnam…

Session at the 2015 IUAES Inter-Congress @ Thammasat University, Bangkok, Thailand

Time: Wednesday, July 15, 2015: 15:15 – 16:45
Place: Thammasat University, The Faculty of Sociology and Anthropology, Room 221
ABSTRACT: Medical sciences, technologies and policies operate on different qualitative and quantitative scales. To be able to claim, for example, that a virus is a global health concern requires disjunction, commensuration and boundary making on multiple levels and in multiple locations. How such diverse objects hang together, then, is an open ethnographic question that calls for open anthropological answers. Through their focus on ‘scaling,’ the papers of this panel will attend to the mediation between different ontological realms and will argue that such mediation itself is generative of scale. Scientific, political and cultural claims about size, volume, difference and value emerge through their connections with daily practices of scaling, such as culturing cells in a biology lab, comparing medicinal herbs, or measuring a child’s growth. Scale-making in this sense plays a central role in understanding the dynamic interplay and crossover between laboratory, clinical and public health settings. The central questions that orientate this panel are: How do we as researchers engage simultaneously ­with different qualitative and quantitative scales? and what boundaries and concepts are drawn up or contested in doing so? Building on recent work in anthropology and science studies, we also hope to bring new insights to the discussion about ontological multiplicity. The ethnographically grounded accounts here point to the coexistence of different realities—indigenous, embodied, scientific, etc.—and the tensions between them by showing how multiplicity becomes a matter of scaling in the day-­to­-day practices of medical innovation and intervention from the microscopic to the global. Some papers will highlight how different medical disciplines and conceptual boundaries are realised and contested; others will trace the work of translation across cells, bodies and populations. This attention to the devices and material practices of scaling has the potential to further problematise the division between macro and micro levels of analysis in social research and to offer alternative perspectives to seemingly irresistible categories of globalisation, community, society and nature, among others. Such categories are understood to be no longer singular, but conceptualised and enacted in multiple ways. Furthermore, they are located on continuums rather than as discrete categories.

Convenor: Coll Hutchison (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)
Co-convenor: Gergely Mohacsi (Osaka University)

“Introduction to the Theme”
“A Trace of Sugar: The mediation of global ontologies through local management practices for diabetes care in Trinidad”
“Herbal Dimensions: Cultivating, collecting and screening medicinal plants in Vietnam”
“Temporal Scaling from Cells to Speculation: A case study of a Japanese stem cell laboratory”

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