Open Humanities Lab: A Symposium on the New Humanities & the Anthropocene
A two-day public environmental and citizen humanities event, 14-15 May 2019, at Open Lab, KTH, Stockholm, a symposium and citizen humanities event. We are happy to share with you video documentation of this intense and cross-pollinating symposium with 26 speakers across two days – an open dialogue amongst various artists, scholars, educators, citizens, academic activists, and journalists.Tune in to this conversation on uncertainty, response-ability, and humankind in the age of the Anthropocene, and see if the new humanities’ cultivation of attentiveness, curiosity, care, concern, and critique can do something for you, co-existentially with others.
Principal investigator (Pi): Cecilia Åsberg
Funding agency: MISTRA-FORMAS Seed Box
Links: All keynotes and panels are available online here!
Alzheimer’s Disease, Laboratory Life and the Embodiment of Otherness
Since 2011 Tara Mehrabi is a PhD candidate at the Unit of Gender Studies (Tema Genus) and The Posthumanities Hub at Linköping University. Her research interests include feminist materialist theory, science and technology studies, medical sociology and feminist science studies. Tara’s doctoral project centres on the multiple epistem-ontologies of Alzheimer’s Disease (AD), how AD gets enacted differently in the situated practices of chemical biology and translational medicine, and in scientific models such as the cell, the Drosophila fly and in mice.
Alzheimer’s Cultures – between laboratory science and popular imagination
Cecilia Åsberg and Tara Mehrabi work together, and individually, on Alzheimer’s Disease as a problem for Feminist Science Studies. They are for instance subaward investigators in the ERC-funded project “Prescriptive Prescriptions” (see below). This project engages with the question what Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) is, or rather, what AD is continuously becoming in science and society at large, and how we “become with” it through novel understandings, diagnostic and therapeutic applications emerging in chemical biology labs, in animal models, and in social imagination. Tara Mehrabi started her doctoral project 2011 and will produce a monography by 2015, and Åsberg initiated her research in AD-cultures and the pharmaceutical imagination (with Jennifer Lum) in 2006. Åsberg is now preparing a book manuscript under the auspice of “Bodies Out of Order” on how Alzheimer’s Disease gets translated across sciences, cultures and biologies.
Prescriptive Prescriptions: Pharmaceuticals and ‘Healthy’ Subjectivities (PPPHS)
This grand-scale project, headed by PI Dr. Ericka Johnson, in collaboration with Dr. Celia Roberts (Lancaster University) and Dr. Cecilia Åsberg is financed by the European Research Council (ERC). It concerns how our sociocultural understandings of healthy personhood are challenged by new or emerging medical pharmaceuticals. Drugs prescrived to young women as they enter adulthood, like HPV (cervical cancer) vaccine and birth control pills, or to men as they approach old age, sildenafil for erectile concerns or anti-dementia drugs, are telling of our cultural expectations regarding gender and sexuality, age, ability and cognition. In this project we investigate the cultural meanings and expectations attached to four prescription drugs, and compares the policies and practices around their use in two European countries, Sweden and UK. Read more here.
Productions of HPV vaccine users in Sweden
Lisa Lindén is a PhD student at the Unit of Technology and Social Change at Linköping University since the fall of 2011. Lisa’s general research interests concern feminist theory of the body and embodiment, transformations of the public health sector and co-productions and entanglements of technology, gender and sexuality. The PhD project deals with the Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccines Gardasil and Cervarix in Swedish. It is a part of a larger Research project entitled “Prescriptive Prescriptions: Pharmaceuticals and ‘Healthy’ Subjectivities”. The HPV vaccine is used to prevent HPV type 16 and 18 which have been estimated to cause 70% of cervical cancer cases per year. In Sweden, it is approved and prescribed for girls aged 10 to 12 years old and will soon be distributed through the Swedish school health system, administrated by school nurses. The PhD project has its focus upon the HPV vaccine as policy, regulatory regime and medical practice. It explores productions of new biomedicalized adolescent girl subjectivities as “ideal users” of the vaccine. The HPV vaccine technology is explored as co-produced and entangled with social categorizations such as sexuality and gender.
“Pharmaceutical Oral Contraceptive is an Ecological Issue”
Pelin Kümbet holds her Ph.D. at Hacettepe University, Ankara, Turkey. Her dissertation “Posthuman Bodies in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go, Indra Sinha’s Animal’s People, and Justina Robson’s Natural History” discusses emergent posthuman bodies – clone, toxic, and cyborg bodies. Epitomizing liminal and excluded “in/appropriated others” these posthuman bodies not only overturn our basic convictions of natural body, normative sex and gender, but they also operate as crucial tools intra-acting with other entities, to expand the notion of our ethics to a more comprehensive posthumanist ethics. Her other current project, “Pharmaceutical Oral Contraceptive is an Ecological Issue: Agentic Entanglements of Hormonally-Induced Toxic Bodies” explores the pharmaceutical legitimatization of overwhelming women’s bodies with hormonally-saturated oral contraceptives, which both transform women’s bodies into toxic bodies and leave their toxic footprint through their disposal or excretion on more-than-human world with precarious ecological ramifications including hybrid species with different reproductive parts and feminized male species.
Pet Therapy: Psycho therapeutic practices and our companion animal imaginary
Cats and dogs have accompanied humans for thousands of years. As companion animals they have served in many functions, as rescue or custums workers, pets, laboratory models, pest control, status symbols, companions and friends. Living close together with us, companion animals have proven crucial for our health. Cats and dogs (but also furry robotic animals) have proven significant in the relationships forged at care centers for the elderly, eg amongst cognitively disabled and demented patients. Dogs and humans are so genetically similar that comparisons can be made of diseases in both species. Drugs developed for humans in clinical trials have to pass muster in animal models within translational medicine, but recently we also see a lot of well-known “human” therapeutic drugs being prescribed by veterinarians to pets (for symptoms like depression and anxiety). Taking a starting point in Human Animal Studies, feminist science studies and posthumanities research, there is a distinct lack of scientific knowledge on the medicalization of pets. This emerging project, headed by Karla Mason (visiting scholar of the Hub) and Cecilia Åsberg, concerns societal, cultural and ethical implications of the re-purposed use of psychotherapeutic drugs and the rising popularity of behavioural interventions (as seen in tv-series with famous “dog whisperers”) amongst us “companion species”.
Gendered Biologies: Selfhood Re-embodied in Women undergoing Oophorectomy
Together with feminist neuroscientist Gillian Einstein, Margrit Shildrick, Nina Lykke and Cecilia Åsberg have initiated a rare transdisciplinary project that bridges gender medicine, science studies and feminist cultural scholarship. This projects maps the embodied self in women undergoing oophorectomy (ovarian removal surgery, due to cancer risk). Every year almost hundred Swedish women have an oophorectomy prior to natural menopause (Socialstyrelsen). In the long term, these women have a higher incidence of dementias, including Alzheimer’s disease (AD). In short-term studies of women post-oophorectomy, it has also been shown that deprivation of a specific type of estradiol has a negative impact on cognition and memory. Though the long-term effects of such hormonal deprivation in this population is unknown, it is nevertheless fair to say that oophorectomy puts patients at cognitive risk. Then again, the reason for having an oophorectomy is to instantly reduce the risk of ovarian and/or breast cancer. Trapped between Scylla and Charybdis, these women embody contemporary bioculture’s individualization of risk but also how we all embody gendered biologies reciprocally between physiology, medical knowledge, cultural norms, sex and gender.The purpose of the project is to explore the nexus of interrelated discourses, experiences and practices surrounding the procedure of prophylactic oophorectomy in a specific group of Swedish women identified as having a high genetic risk of ovarian and/or breast cancer before the age of 41. Our interdisciplinary team of researchers intends to explore the dimensions of oophorectomy as a phenomenon that raises questions not only in the field of biomedicine, but equally in neuroscience, in gender studies, and in the wider humanities and social sciences.
New materialist understandings of transgender corporeal spatiotemporal realities
Max van Midde works within the fields of transgender studies and new materialisms. His research explores the complexities of transgender corporeal spatiotemporal realities. In particular, his focus is on how trans people create spatiotemporal realities on the borderlands of race and gender. Pointing to a non-linear temporal reality that is experienced on the borderlands of race and gender, his research examines the racialized and gendered onto-epistemologies that emerge in the midst of an entanglement of temporality, spatiality, and corporeality; going back and forth, and in-between of realities, possibilities, and desires.
Menstrual becomings: a body-sociological study
Josefin Persdotter is a PhD student at Göteborgs university, but she is furthermore an artist with exhibitions like Period Pieces in her portfolio. In her dissertation she will be using posthumanist and feminist-technoscientific theories and methodologies to explore the socio-material processes of menstrual genesis; i.e. how menstruation comes into being, both socially and materially. Through a number of empirical case studies she’ll explore, make concrete, and develop thinking-technologies surrounding these complex processes. What do they look like? What is created? What is annihilated? What kinds of meanings are produced? How do they differ between different contexts? And what are the consequences of this?
Bio: Bachelor in Sociology and Masters in European Studies, both at University of Gothenburg. Member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research. Been active within the Menstrual Countermovement for the last eight years and my Masters thesis was an auto(n)ethnography of the movement. Found here: https://gupea.ub.gu.se/handle/2077/34369
Digital Intimacies: Re-territorializing the Internet
Helga Sadowski is a PhD Candidate at Tema Genus and at the Posthumanities Hub working on the gendered imaginaries and materialities of new media (since 2011). Starting from the cyberfeminist questions of materiality and embodiment online, Helga explores dominat forms of cybermasculinity, netizenship and feminist stategies of resistance on the internet.
Mapping the Humanoid: The Anthropoid Care Robot in Kitchen, Lab and Cultural Imagination
Pat Treusch, holds a PhD from the Technical University Berlin (also affiliated with Humboldt University and The Posthumanities Hub at Linköping University). In their PhD project Pat explores the antropoid robot as developed in the high tech lab in Karlsruhe and in the modern imagination at large with the analytical tools of feminist technoscience studies.
The Global Lake: Feminist Experiments in the Environmental Humanities
An experimental project headed by Suzi Hayes, Astrida Neimanis (visiting scholars of the Hub) and Cecilia Åsberg, The Global Lake(prev.Local Ecology; Global Collaborations) combines scientific, critical humanities, and experimental arts based research as a means of rethinking ecologies and climate imaginaries beyond anthropocentrism while situated very concretely at a local Swedish lake. An international collaboration between Linköping University (SE), and three Australian universities (La Trobe, Canberra and Western Australia) the project admixes expertise in the fields of materialist feminist scholarship, ethics, education, water science, biological art, and mixed media art practices. Focused on Lake Roxen in Östergötland Sweden, the project acts as a pilot for the establishment of a world-class environmental humanities incubator at LiU (SE). By re-inventive combinations of qualitative and quantitative data the project serves as an experimental test site for 1) exploring socio-cultural imaginaries of climate change 2) cross-disciplinary feminist posthumanities and 3) development of Environmental Humanities at LiU. The project will be one of critique, interrogating existing formations of human/environment relations, and one of creative action, developing pedagogical tools for citizen science and scholarly resources for thinking climate change through science, art and theory. Collaborators include: Norie Neumark (La Trobe University), Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr of SymbioticA (University of Western Australia), Affrica Taylor (University of Canberra), and both from TEMA, LiU and Water and Environmental Studies, David Bastviken and Johan Hedrén.
Sustainable Knowledge in Teacher Education
Hanna Sjögren is a PhD student at the Unit of Technology and Social Change at Linköping University since the fall of 2010. Hanna’s research interest concerns negations on what counts as valid knowledge in different educational setting, using theoretical tools and ideas fromdifferent feminist andposthumanistscholars. Hanna’s PhD project focuses on what counts as valid knowledge about sustainable development in Swedish teacher education and uses focus group interviews as the method of inquiry. Sustainable development, as an area of knowledge, makes an interesting interdisciplinary case in education with a potential to destabilize clear cuts between nature/culture, public/private, human/non-human, North/South and theory/practice. Issues about how borders and border-crossing in educational practices can be studies, understood, challenged and destabilized are central to this project.
Plantarium is a project initiated by Olga Cielemecka (LiU) and Marianna Szczygielska (CEU, Budapest, Hungry) which aims at addressing the question of plant-human relationships in the context of pressing environmental issues. This project is designed to foster new ways of thinking (with) plants as a way to re-position the human as part of the surrounding natural-cultural environment, creating tools to seek out alternative green futures. Project is supported by Seed Box Funding.
Love stories in the Anthropocene
Olga Cielemecka is a feminist philosopher and a postdoc within “The Seed Box.” In her project she seeks ways to break open and recalibrate the idea of economies in the times of the Anthropocene through a mobilization of feminist erotics. In doing so, she wishes to re-think, and ultimately re-design, capitalist economies and the relation to intimacies they produce in the so-called Anthropocene (marked by environmental crisis and ecological urgency). One way to do this is through multispecies (love)story-telling, another is through the concept of what she calls a poly-body (a more than human body, a body which is always already an ecology). “Love stories in the Anthropocene” explores ways of thinking the body as a polyorganismic, multispecies ecology, and it desires novel types of relationalities, loves, queer pleasures, and excessiveness which emerge from it. Engaging examples of art projects and fiction, Olga uses philosophy’s tools for her analysis and, simultaneously, looks for more poetic forms of expression in order to link economies to ecologies, and the environment to erotics.
Feminist Engagements with Breathing: Agencies of Embodied Subjectivities
Magdalena Górska holds a PhD. from Tema Genus and at the Posthumanities Hub. The PhD. project aimed for a feminist theorizing of the human as an ‘embodied being of the world’. In order to do so and in order to attend to the specificities of such an interest, the research focuses on breathing. Breathing is understood here as a figuration as well as a phenomenon that opens up possibilities to think about embodiment and subjectivity beyond binaries of nature-culture, material-discursive, nonhuman-human, inside-outside, organic-inorganic. It is through the encounters with lungs, blood, air, dust, slime, veins, capillary, elements, bodily pressures, contractions, diffusion and many other actors, that the project hopes to conceptualize the agentiality of material processes which are constitutive of life and death and which flesh-out the transcorporeal (Stacy Alaimo) character of the human embodiment. As such, the project aims to develop an approach that offers non-anthropocentric, material-discursive understanding of human embodied subjectivities and hence is in conversation with feminist corporeal, poststructuralist and materialist scholarships that challenge neo-liberal, Cartesian and humanist notions of the subject and of embodiment.
‘From earth to air: Tracing coal toxicities through post-socialist bodies, landscapes, and lifeworlds’.
Irma Allen’s (KTH) PhD research project will examine everyday toxic relationships between coal and human-non-human bodies in Poland. Focusing on visceral encounters between breathing bodies and coal, I plan to trace the transforming materialiazations of coal dust and its political ecologies from earth to air, through the labour of coal mining, the burning of coal, and the circulation of smog and air pollution in and around the historic Silesian coal-mining region. Across these vertical and unequal spatialities, what kinds of toxic biographies and toxic memories are inscribed in bodies? How and why are these suppressed, disciplined and/or controlled? How do they intersect with the potential toxic politics of nationalism and identity? How are animal bodies and plant organisms made to perform as indicator species and expressions of toxic natures? How, why and when is the everyday toxicity of coal normalized and depoliticized, and what is the point at which it becomes a contestable terrain with implications for imagined and possible futures? My research aims to bring together political ecological, feminist posthumanism, and postcolonial post-socialist approaches to rethinking our intimate relation to this most primary of fossil fuels, including what coal is and what it does.