This year so many of our conferences have gone virtual. While we are excited about the possibilities this affords in terms of rethinking the conference, we are also aware of the limitations of online meet-ups, especially if they attempt to be digital replicas of the in-person conference rather than creatively different events. We are working in various ways with experiments at our conferences and at the same time recognise we need to find different audiences for our work and to engage in conversations about it. As part of this we will share our accepted conference abstracts in this logbook and invite people to get in touch however they wish if they want to explore these ideas further with us. To begin with we are posting our accepted abstracts for the EASST/STS (formerly Prague) 2020 annual conference (one of the bigger STS conferences in our field). This one is by Anna and John and the is the basis for a longer journal article which is currently in preparation:
That pathology and normality exist on a complex spectrum of bodily manifestation is an enduring question which lies at the heart of the philosophy of medicine (Canguillem, 1943, trans. 1991). Insights from STS and medical anthropology have suggested that this may be because the body—in both health and disease—does not exist as a single entity but is enacted in many ways, and in various spaces and times, through practices which make bodies visible, audible, tangible and knowable (Mol, 2002). As the primary locus for the reproduction of medical practice and epistemology, medical schools are important sites for the cultivation and disciplining of sensory attention in medicine. Often, students are taught to know the sight, sound, smell and feel of ‘the normal’ before learning to sense deviations from it. However, access to a requisite range of bodies is not so easily obtained; nor is it readily reproduced in simulations, photographs and films, which tend towards assuredness and fixity in their representations. Drawing on ethnographic and historical fieldwork in medical faculties at Semmelweis University (Hungary), Maastricht University (the Netherlands), and the University for Development Studies (Ghana), this article considers how historical and spatial variations in the teaching of ophthalmology constructs ideas of normalcy and pathology in conjunction with the educative technologies which populate these sites. In doing so, we argue that, although the pathologisation of bodies in biomedicine may derive from technoscientific developments in the clinical sciences, it is promoted by those epistemic technologies which reify and reproduce specific constructions of pathology and normality. We go on to suggest that the application of decolonial and postcolonial critiques of education and epistemology to medicine invites an alternative philosophy of normality in medicine while also offering a means to challenge the ontological assuredness of biomedicine around the world.