Our panel proposal for next years SLSA conference, “Figurations of Knowledge”, which will be held in Berlin from the 2nd to the 8th of June, has been accepted. Here follows our general outline and individual abstracts.

Recent biomedicine and vitality
This panel addresses different emergences of ‘vitality’ in recent biomedicine. It brings together diverse case studies – from embryonic practices between clinical waste and ‘personhood’, laboratory animals to preventive risk assessment software and medical simulations. Recent biomedicine is a key contemporary site in which boundaries of life and death are negotiated. While ‘health’ has been construed in opposition to ‘disease’, in recent biomedicine these categories have become less and less clear. Depending on practices, the same fetal material can be enacted with different meanings, biomedical objects are more often rather multiples than clear categories. Engineered laboratory animals are endowed with vitality and designed to mimick the human body for research purposes. In preventive medicine, health and disease are located on a continuum, where preventive risk management is used to treat symptomless risk factors. In medical simulations the signs of health and disease are recast in software and borrow much of their plots from the game industry. This rematerialization of the life/death tension, does not only entail a new aesthetic perception of the vital body. Framed in the pedagogy of simulation, the issue of vitality is presented as something that is performed and therefore, following the logics of games, open in its outcome.

A matter of disposal: Enacting aborted foetuses in hospitals
Sniff Andersen Nexø
Medical Museion
Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Copenhagen
Fredericiagade 18
DK-1310 Copenhagen K

Medical practices with human embryos increasingly fuel negotiations of the status of the embryo as human or non-human, as subject or object, person or thing and life and death. Thus, the embryo can be regarded as a site for controversies on what it means to be human – a ‘human boundary object’ and a contested category with regard to their status of medical tissue versus almost personhood.
Such negotiations and controversies do not only take place between a few stable, general positions identifying the embryo as either / or: embryos also seem to emerge with different meanings depending on different practices with them – e.g. induced abortion or foetal surgery, ultrasound screening or IVF. Even what we would usually consider the ‘same’ embryo might be transformed into something new at various points on its way through the hospital and the different practices with it. To grasp this ambiguity and complexity, I find inspiration in Annemarie Mol’s challenging thinking on the multiple enactments of a phenomenon in specific medical practices.
I will present and discuss the case of different disposal procedures for aborted foetuses in Danish hospitals: incineration and cremation, enacting foetuses as respectively clinical risk waste or dead (semi)individuals.

Vitality of a scientific model: The coming into being and trajectory of a new laboratory animal
Hanne Jessen
Medical Museion
Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Copenhagen
Fredericiagade 18
DK-1310 Copenhagen K

How does a new, engineered animal come into being, and how is it endowed with vitality and becomes established in the biosciences as a scientifically accepted model for research in human diseases? Vitality is here to be understood figuratively about the life and trajectory of a scientific idea in the shape of an animal designed to mimick the human body in a standardized fashion.
Based on historiografic literature (which is limited), archival material and interviews with key informants on the introduction of the minipig in veterinarian and biomedical research as well as an ethnographic study of its present uses, meanings and itineraries, this presentation examines historical conditions for the coming into being (in Germany in the 1960s) and establishment (in Denmark and later internationally up through the 1990s) of the minipig as a model for the study of human diseases.
Not only the biological attributes of the pig, but a specific genetic design work, international breeding collaboration, scientific, economic and ethical considerations, political negotiations, marketing within the scientific community and PR to gain general acceptance, as well as the cultural status of the pig (in Denmark and internationally) and formerly accepted models are all important elements in the coming into being and vitality of the minipig as a recognized research animal.

Risk assessment software and the biopolitics of prevention
Susanne Bauer
Medical Museion
Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Copenhagen
Fredericiagade 18
DK-1310 Copenhagen K

This contribution discusses the emergence of vitality as enacted in an exemplary risk assessment software used in clinical practice. This clinical tool calculates individualised probabilities for disease events, producing risk numbers that predict the probability of a disease event or a “fatal event”, based on a database from large scale population studies. Through visual displays of probabilities in graphs and pie charts, it enrols citizens into risk management in the name of science. It can be viewed as functioning as a biomedical oracle as to individual vitality.
With risk management as technologies of the self, epidemiology as part of biomedicine transforms understandings of health and disease. Risk assessment software translates population data into individual risk numbers, thereby enrolling citizens into the active optimisation of their bodies. Individualising risk numbers according to patient profiles brings population-based statistical findings back to the patient doctor encounters and into everyday life. Decision support software here epitomises the intersection between the biopolitics on the population level and the normalisation of the individual within one object. It is a technique of population governance and gouvernmentality as to vitality.
At the contours of individual vitality are drawn in relation to statistical population averages, vitality emerges within a biopolitical framework, in a mode of risk factor optimisation within individual life. The borderline between the normal and the pathological becomes a statistically drawn boundary that is subject to preventive management.

Life struggles and the invaded body
Jan Eric Olsén
Medical Museion
Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Copenhagen
Fredericiagade 18
DK-1310 Copenhagen K

Since the breakthrough of bacteriology in the late nineteenth-century, the notion of vitality, or organic life, has been conceived in direct opposition to that which threatens to undermine the healthy body, i.e. germs, microbes, bacteria and viruses. Depicted in the language of combat and battle, this particular view on the relation between life and death, gave rise to a bio-political body, which gained a deeper significance from the disasters of the two world wars. In this paper, I investigate how the tropes and metaphors of the “invaded body” are used in medical simulators and serious games of today. Although the tension between life and death, appears to be accurately re-inscribed in terms of the body-under-attack, the specific aesthetics and function of simulators and educational computer games, makes evident that it is a new body that is under attack and that the metaphor of the attack serves new purposes. While the modernistic concept of the body-under-attack, mirrored medicines struggle to cope with diseases such as TBC, today’s version, as illustrated in the computer game Nanoswarm: attack from outer space, developed to educate children in healthy eating and create an awareness of diabetes, shows that the enemy is not coming from outside, but rather from inside. In this respect, the metaphor of life’s struggle with exterior diseases is re-employed as a didactic tool that aims at fostering biological citizens.

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