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Monthly Archives

May 2012

Hunger, appetite, and satiation

By Biomedicine in museums

Don’t  forget our MUSE workshop tomorrow. Over lunch we will attack the topic of hunger/appetite/satiation with a range of methodological tools:

  • An anthropological approach (Line Hillersdal and Bodil Just Christensen, PhD candidates, Institute for Food and Resource Economics, University of Copenhagen)
  • A museological/curatorial approach (Bente Vinge Pedersen and Niels Vilstrup Møller, senior curators, Medical Museion, University of Copenhagen)
  • A media/communication approach (with Louise Whiteley, asssistant professor, Medical Museion)

As usual, the workshop runs from 12.30 – 1.30 pm, followed by discussion.

From the body as factory to eating information: A short history of metabolism

By Biomedicine in museums

Just to remind you all that Hannah Landecker will give a seminar titled “From the Body as Factory to Eating Information: A Short History of Metabolism” in our MUSE seminar series on next Friday, June 1, at 3 pm.

Hannah Landecker (associate professor of sociology at UCLA) is the author of the award-winning book Culturing Life: How Cells Became Technologies (2007). Her work focuses on the social and historical study of biotechnology and life science, from 1900 to today. She is currently working on a book tentatively called “American Metabolism,” which looks at transformations to the metabolic sciences wrought by the rise of epigenetics, microbiomics, cell signaling and hormone biology.

The seminar takes place in Medical Museion’s auditorium, Bredgade 62 — it’s open to everyone and refreshments will be served afterwards.

Here’s the abstract of her talk:

Metabolism, understood as the chemical conversions of food into bodily matter and energy, has since its formulation as a scientific concept in the nineteenth century been a fundamental aspect of biochemistry, philosophies of life, and to a certain extent, social and political theories of the social body. The elaboration of metabolism and then intermediary metabolism framed the body as a factory or a chemical laboratory for the interconversion of matter and energy by which the outside world and its constituent plants and animals were incorporated and transubstantiated into the metabolizing organism’s body. Claude Bernard observed pithily that “The dog does not get fat on mutton fat. It makes dog fat”; metabolism was central to the practical and physical understanding of the maintenance of the individual body of the eating organism even in the face of the necessity of constantly ingesting the outside world ­ eating others.

In philosophy, metabolism came to occupy a role as part of the defining line between the living and the not living; to metabolize was to live. In social theory, Marx found in scientific accounts of metabolism a fecund source of inspiration for the understanding of exchange, and since that time the idea of social or industrial metabolism ­ societies having metabolisms ­ has played a role in the imagination of systems of individuals as social bodies.

In the metabolic sciences today, there is a marked shift away from classic metabolism, in which a concern with manufacturing and production is being transformed by a concern with regulation and synchrony. Food is as much an informational signal as a chemical substrate, and the timing of its presence is as important as its quantity or content. Metabolism is regulatory mechanism for the organism in a changing environment; it is being re-theorized as a mode of inheritance of environmental conditions, for example in ideas of predictive-adaptive signaling, where the developing fetus uses cues from maternal metabolism to anticipate the nutritional state of the world it will be born into. Such contemporary ruptures throw into sharp relief the historical specificity of previous philosophical, social, and scientific uses of metabolism as a universal and timeless quality of organisms and their autonomy as enclosed and autonomous metabolizing systems.

See more here:

Nærkontakt med en gentest — af den materielle slags

By Biomedicine in museums

Næste torsdag, den 24. maj, inviterer vi til endnu en aftenkonsultation i Medicinsk Museions arrangementsrække Krop | Medicin | Ting – nærkontakt af den materielle slags …

Genomforskning er big business! Men hvad er det en gentest kan fortælle? Og hvordan laver man den egentlig? Hvilket grej behøver man? Er det svært? Kan man lave den i køkkenet derhjemme?

Kom og find ud af hvordan man oprenser DNA fra blod og spyt, hvordan de genetiske variationer identificeres, og hvordan data fra dine gener både kan ende som forhøjet sygdomsrisiko og indikator for blå øjne og krøllet hår. Rør ved en genchip og mærk varmen fra en PCR-maskine. Bliv klogere på hvad viden om vores gener giver af muligheder og udfordringer!

Arrangementet foregår i Bredgade 62, 1260 København K. Dørene åbner kl 19.00, og vi går i gang kl 19.30. Billetter koster 50 kr, og kan købes på PolitikenBillet.

Læs mere her: (på dansk) og her (på engelsk)

PS: Du kan for øvrigt også vinde en gentest (værdi ca. 3000 kroner).

The inability of contextualism to explain disruptions and surprises

By Biomedicine in museums

Last time I presented a paper criticising contextualist thinking was at the annual History of Science conference in Washington DC in November 2007 — that’s almost five years ago!

I haven’t had much time over to think about the individualism/contextualism/holism issue. This museum, and a couple of kids, have taken all my time. But a recent talk by Graham Harman has reinvigorated my spirits. Here the abstract to an audio of a keynote titled “Everything Is Not Connected” that Harman gave in Berlin, 2 February 2012:

The idea that everything is interconnected has become a staple of intellectual life. As a related phenomenon, “contextualisation” is now the method of first resort throughout the humanities. This lecture opposes the general trend of emphasising systems and wholes over autonomous individuals. Among the greatest drawbacks of holistic ontology is its inability to explain disruptions and surprises in any system it studies. At best, one posits some sort of “materiality” lying outside all formatted systems that serves as their underground source of change, a theory that fails for a variety of reasons.

Couldn’t agree more!

I’m less sure about Harman’s remedy, object-oriented ontology:

The only alternative is to adopt an object-oriented model of fully formatted entities lying beyond the grasp of the human mind and even of each other. After providing some theoretical background for this claim, I will consider several recent political phenomena that are better understood by an object-oriented approach than a holistic one.

But so far that’s peanuts compared to his criticism of contextualism.

(thumbnail credit: DWinton’s flickr photostream; Creative Commons license)


What would a material history of drug addiction read, look, sound, smell etc. like?

By Biomedicine in museums

Today we had our weekly MUSE workshop with in-house historian of psychiatry, Jesper V. Kragh, who spoke — under the title “Changing Gender Differences: Morphine in Denmark, 1860-1960” — about the gender dimension in his current research project on the history of drug abuse in Denmark.

The discussion generated a lot of discussions — and a lively Twitter-stream, including some thoughts about a possible material history of drug addiction.

(thumbnail photo credit here)

Sociale medier og folkesundhedsvidenskabelig forskningskommunikation 2.0

By Biomedicine in museums

Vores egen Nina Bjerglund Andersen skal tale om sociale medier og folkesundhedsvidenskabelig forskningskommunikation i forbindelse med årsmødet i Foreningen for Kandidater i Folkesundhedsvidenskab (FKFSV):

The Lancet er på Twitter, CDC [Center for Disease Control] i USA kører en aktiv Facebook-side og BMJ [British Medical Journal] har mere end 15 blogs kørerende parallelt til deres tidsskrift. Sociale medier stormer frem inden for forskningskommunikation. Med sin interaktive præmis åbner de op for helt nye muligheder for at kommunikere forskning og generelle folkesundhedsbudskaber – og for at forske. Folkesundhedsvidenskaben har allerede vist sig at kunne drage særligt fordel af, at kommunikation nu har fået en ny platform at lege på.

Årsmødet finder sted på Medicinsk Museion, mandag den 14. maj 2012, kl. 16.00-21.00. Det begynder med en omvisning i Medicinsk Museions udstillinger, efterfulgt af Ninas foredrag, som begynder 17.30 (og som efterfølges af generalforsamling).

Ikke-medlemmer i FKFSV er meget velkommen til at lytte med på Ninas foredrag, hvis man tilmelder sig på med angivelse af at man kun deltager under oplægget.

Hvis du ikke kan komme, kan du følge oplægget online på, ca kl. 17.30 – 18.30. Se mere her: