‘Laboratories of the population’: approaching the recent history of cancer epidemiology in Denmark

Susanne Bauer, Postdoc at Medical Museion, University of Copenhagen

As part of on-going research into the history of Danish Biomedicine, 1955-2005, the presented project “Mapping the Visual and Epistemic Cultures of Epidemiology: Individuals, Populations and the Biomedical Body” is investigating epidemiological studies as complex biopolitical ‘assemblages’. Focusing on the data networks of a breast cancer study conducted in Copenhagen as an example, I will describe key features of an epidemiologic research system – from study design and aetiological concepts, data gathering, record linkage practices and biostatistical procedures to the generation of ‘evidence-based’ predictions and public health governance. In following the itinaries of epidemiologic data flows and knowledge generation processes, this project aims to explore epistemic strategies and the biopolitical productivity of epidemiology’s specific mode of reasoning.

Cultural, social and technological human-animal interplay in biomedical science:
An ethnographic study of the laboratory minipig

Hanne Jessen, MSc, PhD-student, Medical Museion, University of Copenhagen

In recent years there has been an extensive focus on human-animal-relationships within humanistic and social scientific disciplines. At the same time, social studies of biomedical science abound; fieldwork-based laboratory studies – with a particular focus on knowledge construction – have almost become a genre in itself. Interestingly, the two themes have not to any notable extent been combined – despite the fact that animals, as models of humans and as fundamental analytical (biologial) material, are an integral part of biomedical knowledge construction and laboratory life. The laboratory (in its widest sense – as an amalgamation or network of places involved in the creation of biomedical science) is thus an essential space in which humans relate to animals at different stages of the life-death trajectory of the latter, and in which humans and animals interact in particular ways.
I suggest that laboratory animals – as live creatures, as technological creations and as biological organisms – co-act in the production of scientific knowledge in decisive ways, and that the characteristics of the animal demand or evoke specific knowledges, skills and attitudes on the part of laboratory people, attributes which may in part be highly individual (situated and embodied) and which are not normally made explicit in scientific papers, but may be acquired and exist as tacit knowledge. The aim of this project is, first, to uncover how laboratory people perceive of the animals, of animal agency, of the interaction they engage in and of the specific challenges animals in science create in laboratory practices and vis-á-vis the ‘outer world’ and, second, to examine how these views, actions and interactions are played out in laboratory processes and events and how animals are objects for science as well as co-agents in setting the stage for science
As an applied dimension of the project I wish to examine the possiblity of representing ‘scientific animals’ in a museological context. Can scientific animals be collected and represented in meaningful ways in an exhibition?

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