Morten Hillgaard Bülow – Ph.D.-student
My work at Medical Museion
The project I am working on has two interconnected parts. One is the historical and philosophical study of the dissemination of the concept of ‘successful aging’ within ageing-research from the 1980s until today. ‘Successful aging’ has been a very influencial concept within this growing research field and can be seen as exemplary of the developments within biomedicine in general: moving from treatment to prevention, increased interdisciplinary cooporations, focus on the interrelation between bodies and lifestyle factors, and individual ‘empowerment’, etc.
The other part is an investigation of how this concept has been understood specifically within neuroscience in connection with the production of knowledge in this field, and how this in turn relates to the current merging discourse on ‘human cognitive enhancement’. The hopes and fears of (neuroscientific) ageing-research aimed at ‘successful aging’ seems to be connected to the enhancement debate in several ways that would be interesting to investigate – notions of successful aging and human enhancement often appear in the same context, as aging research allows for the possible use of medical technology for improving human beings and as pressure is laid on the health sciences to develop life extending and life improving medicine. One specific aspect of this that I am particularly interested in is to investigate what ontological assumptions underlie both the neuroscience and the enhancement debates related to ageing – what constitutes ‘human’ and ‘ageing’ within these two areas?
The project is enrolled in the graduate programme of Medical Science and Technology Studies, and is also part of and financed by research programme 5 of the Center for Healthy Aging (CEHA), Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Copenhagen. Project supervisor is professor Thomas Söderqvist.
What I am doing right now
Primarily, I am working on a couple of articles that are to form the basis of my PhD. One article I write in collaboration with Thomas Söderqvist concerning the historical development of the concept of ‘successful aging’ within ageing-research from 1987 till today. The other article is an (bio)ethical discussion of the norms and understandings of what it means to be human in the field of ageing research; its worktitle is “Ageing and the Monstrous”.
Aside from that, I have recently finished a chapter for a book that has sprung out of participating in the workshop ‘Good life better – anthropological, sociological and philosophical dimensions of enhancement‘, arranged by Institute for the History of Medicine and Science Studies (IMGWF) at the University of Lübeck. The title of my contribution is: “Good Old Brains: How concerns about the ageing society and ideas about cognitive enhancement interact in neuroscience”. I will write more about the book project later as it gets underway.
I have a background in History and Philosophy/Science studies from Roskilde University, where I have specialised in the history of medicine/philosophy of science and queer-feminist science studies. As an illustrative example, the title of my master’s thesis, which was an integrated thesis between History and Philosophy/Science studies and done in collaboration with Marie-Louise Holm, was: ‘What men are made of – the construction of concepts of masculinity in research projects about testosterone in Denmark from the 1910s to the 1980s‘. These subject areas still have my interest, and from 2007 I have also been a member of the board (vice chair from 2012) of the Network for research on Men and Masculinities (NeMM), in the context of which I have arranged several seminars on related topics.
From September 2011 to April 2012 I recieved an ENSN (European Neuroscience and Society Network) exchange grant to be visiting researcher at BIOS in London. Until December BIOS was located at LSE but in January it moved to King’s College London to be part of the new Department for Social Science, Health and Medicine. The purpose of my stay was to, basically, work on my PhD, in particular the parts of it that relates to neuroscience, and I was grateful for being able to do this at BIOS. As it turned out, the research stay has shaped my project in a more (bio)ethical direction, resulting in a draft for the article “Ageing and the Monstrous” mentioned above.
More information about my Ph.D.-project is available here.
You can listen to a podcast of one of me and Marie-Louise’s presentations based on our master’s thesis here.
For a full CV and list of publications, go here.
Phone: +45 35 32 38 19