Thinking with Plasticity: Health, Scientific Innovation and the Politics of Human Bodies
July 3, 2019, The Van Leer Jerusalem Institute
July 4, 2019, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev
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Ideas about plasticity have emerged following recent discoveries in the life sciences and medical research. The fading of ideas about the genome’s boundedness and its ontological priority clears the way for conceptualizations of the intertwining of bodies and biosocial environments. Plasticity challenges biological determinism and produces new forms of relational thinking in biology in which bodies are not fully determined by biology but also not entirely detached from it. Although not always acknowledged, medical anthropological conceptions of the interrelation of the corporeal and the social, the political and the sensual, the material and the ethical have been highly influential in these developments. Ethnographies of the development and application of reproductive technologies, the concept of local biologies, research on inequality in health infrastructure, and anthropological studies of embodiment and body techniques, to name just a few, explore the structural contexts of the intergenerational transmission of injustice as well as the intertwining of biological and social matters.
Building upon these issues, we aim to explore and contribute to the understanding of historical, cultural, and ideological transformations in the intertwining of bodies and their biosocial environments.
The idea of plasticity serves as an intellectual device for thinking about our research in medical anthropology.