Science, Technology, and Medicine

We encourage you to keep abreast of happenings at the Science, Technology, and Medicine (STM) group by joining us on google groups by sending an email to: scitechmed@googlegroups.com . We also have a relatively new Facebook presence and encourage you to find us and connect by using the “like” button! You can find us here: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Science-Technology-and-Medicine-Special-Interest-Group-of-the-SMAAAAs/295443727156669

Mission Statement

The Science, Technology, and Medicine interest group (STM) was created in 2006. It is a forum for medical anthropologists (both professionals and students) who share concerns over

  1. How scientific research, technological transformation and professional medicine inform public health policy, popular culture, and affect the intimate realms of bodily experience;
  2. The ways laboratory and experimental medicine (both public and private sector) are influenced by economic and political institutions and patient mobilization;
  3. The specificities of the development, regulation, marketing and distribution of pharmaceuticals and biologics;
  4. How local experiences of illness and health are refracted through established modes of discrimination (such as class, race, and gender) and unequal access to new medical technologies; and
  5. The extent to which these pragmatic and embodied responses to medical science and technology shape concepts of personhood and degrees of political membership.

These are not straightforward developments with predetermined outcomes. Medical science and technology are matters of disputed intellectual property regimes and of intense negotiation between unevenly located partners. Moreover, biomedical science’s local realizations are shaped by contingency, imagination, and uncertainty, often by multiple actors and rarely without dispute. Such realizations encode diverse economic and political interests as well as group and individual anxieties and desires; they also involve shifts from one form of bodily and medical knowledge to another. As scientific and medical technologies materialize, so do new ethical questions and analytical questions: What kind of scientific literacy is required of us, as a general public, to participate responsibly in emergent therapeutic cultures? What is the perceived value of health and what price do people pay to extend life? Which forms of governance and ideas of the social good and public health are at stake in the global flows of medical technologies? How do we as anthropologists situate ourselves to study these experimental health regimes?

These guiding questions of the STM interest group complement well the mandate of the Pharmaceutical Studies Interest Group, which merged with STM in 2007. STM thus connects medical anthropologists and allied scholars to discuss the lived experiences of biomedical science, pharmaceuticals, biologics, and their emergent infrastructures, with ethnographic attention to the social relations formed or changed as a result. We encourage sustained conversation and sharing of information among members and promote academic sessions and discussions with other concerned partners. We collaborate with the Committee for the Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Computing (CASTAC) and the merger with the Pharmaceutical Studies interest group has allowed for even further collaborations.

The locations of our research are diverse. As a forum we want to identify the varied and entangled dynamics of science, technology, and medicine in both affluent and resource-poor settings. We want to do this through the examination of concrete ethnographic instances. We also want to think comparatively about the multiplicity and flux of medical experience in order to assess global constraints and possibilities as well as unexpected turn of events and institutional transformations. Of utmost importance is the construction of tools for the thorough investigation of shifting public and private technological involvements which are at once local and translocal. We challenge our work to assess novel research methods that can be employed to study such mutable multi-sited and multi-discursive processes. We would like to bring our empirical and analytical insights to bear on anthropological theories of political economy, normalcy and pathology, and human agency, for example. Moreover, we want to build awareness of the competing values, interests, and stakeholders in health decision-making and thus enlarge conceptions of ethical and political choice and of the public role of anthropology.