CSISP Events 2008-2009


For event details and booking information, please email: csisp (

CSISP events range from one-off seminars and one- and two-year long seminar series to practice-based workshops, conferences and symposia. Through our events researchers and practitioners from different disciplines and fields come together to explore and develop research collaborations.

CSISP also welcomes people not affiliated to Goldsmiths, University of London. For information about how to get to CSISP please refer to the contact page.

If you would like to be added to the CSISP mailing list, please email: csisp (

Summer term

How environmental publics fail: material democracy, Walter Lippmann, and the problem of affectedness'

Noortje Marres (University of Oxford)

Respondents: Gay Hawkins (University of New South Wales, Sydney) and Lisa Blackman (Goldsmiths)

Chair: Professor Mike Michael, Director of Centre for the Study of Invention and Social Process

April 29, 5 - 7 pm
Goldsmiths RHB 137a  

This talk will consider the conceptual figure of the 'environmental public,' and its role in what is often construed as the failure of the environment to effectively engage wider audiences. It unpacks an influential version of this concept, that of the 'community of the affected,' by returning to one of its earlier instantiations, in the 1920s writings of the American pragmatist Walter Lippmann. In this work traces can be found of an alternative perspective on 'material democracy,' which we will explore, and especially the problem of the public that Lippmann drew attention to: in technological societies publics have to deal with quite impossible cartographies of relevance.

Noortje Marres is Research Fellow at the Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, University of Oxford. She has a background in science and technology studies, and did her doctoral research at the University of Amsterdam and the Ecole des Mines, Paris, on issue-centred concepts of democracy in technological societies. Previously she was a Marie Curie fellow in Sociology at Goldsmiths, where she worked on material forms of publicity emerging in relation to climate change, especially in and around the home.

Gay Hawkins is a Professor of Media and Social Theory in the School of English, Media and Performing Arts at the University of NSW, Sydney, Australia. Her 2006 book 'The Ethics of Waste' explored how the vitality of waste as matter makes claims on us.  She is currently working on a major collaborative and international study of the biopolitics of bottled water. 'Plastic Water ' will be published by MIT press in 2011.

Lisa Blackman is Senior Lecturer in Media and Communications at Goldsmiths, and works at the intersection of critical psychology and cultural theory. Her most recent book is The Body: Key Concepts (Berg, 2008). She is currently working on Immaterial Bodies: Affect, Relationality and the Problem of personality (Sage, 2011), which investigates the importance of suggestion and contagious communication for thinking about affect, the body and subjectivity within social and cultural theory.

What is Medicine?
What is the 'mental' in 'mental illness?': Psychiatry, the double-brain and the problem of hearing voices.

Lisa Blackman, Media & Communication Goldsmiths
Wednesday, 25th February 4-6pm

This talk will outline the importance of Julian Jayne's (1976) book, The Origins of Consciousness in the Bicameral Mind and its relevance for those interested in affect theory, process, body studies and the vexed problem of subjectivity. The talk will discuss nineteenth century debates surrounding the 'double-brain', its re-articulation within contemporary brain imaging studies of voice hearing (auditory hallucinations), and the reduction of what the double-brain may allow us to do and think to a cognitive capacity seen to enable the 'self-monitoring of inner speech'. The talk will draw on genealogical work on 'attention' (Crary) as well as work on the 'skin ego' (Anzieu) to refigure the problem of the 'mental' in 'mental illness' as a problem of distributed embodiment that cannot be contained by contemporary neuroscience nor affect theory unless we can adequately account for the problem of the 'one and the many'; how we live singularity in the face of multiplicity. The talk will prioritise the importance and relevance of re-thinking 'interiority' in the context of this work.

Lisa Blackman is a Senior Lecturer in the Dept of Media and Communications at Goldsmiths. She has published three books: L. Blackman (2001) Hearing Voices: Embodiment and Experience, Free Association Books, L. Blackman and V. Walkerdine (2001) Mass Hysteria: Critical Psychology and Media Studies, Palgrave and L. Blackman (2008) The Body: The Key Concepts. She is the editor of Body and Society (Sage) and a co-editor of Subjectivity (Palgrave). She is currently completing a research monograph 'Immaterial Bodies: Affect, Relationality and the Problem of Personality' to be published by Sage.

What is Medicine? 

Transforming Behaviour: Human and animal nature in the behavioural genetics laboratory

Gail Davies, Geography, UCL 

Wednesday, 6 May 2009 4 - 6pm
12th floor seminar room Warming Tower

 This paper looks at the relationship between changing understandings of human and animal behaviour as they are enmeshed in and emerge from the complex contexts of contemporary behavioural genetics.  Mice models, and more recently genetically altered mice, have played a critical role in understanding human affective disorders, linking animal models, laboratory experimentation and therapeutic interventions.  This paper explores the achievement of these links, but also the challenges to them.  Attention to the site of the laboratory reveals the contingencies and human capabilities intricately involved in the performance of such experiments, meaning they can be difficult to standardize and repeat.  Arguments about environmental enrichment reveal different interpretations of animal behaviour, challenging the external validity of animal models.  Such attention suggests the material practices and scientific arguments linking human diseases and the genetically modified mice are ultimately circular and the meanings of animal behaviour remain ambiguous.  Yet something is clearly being transformed in these circulations.  Utilising the theoretical insights from Agamben and Latour, I suggest this is our understandings of both animal and human nature, and the relationship between the two.

Gail Davies is a lecturer in Geography at UCL in London. Her research is broadly concerned with the way relations between humans, nonhumans and the natural world are imagined and governed, connecting to debates around the 'geographies of science' and 'more-than-human geographies'. She is currently tracing the biogeography of genetically altered laboratory animals to understand the role played by transgenic animals in the spaces of the international bioeconomy and in the political and ethical debate.

Collecting Animals (Blood) for Humans in Medicine: Following a Tale of The True Blue Blood of the Horseshoe Crab

Priska Gisler
13 May 2009 

In the contemporary biotechnological world of hospitals and clinical research the Limulus Amebocyte Lysate Test stands for a success story that is based on the blood of the Horseshoe Crab. LAL is an endotoxin test for drugs, biological products and medical devices in order to prevent patients from immune activation or even a toxic shock. The production of LAL follows highly standardized means and belongs to what Michael Lynch has called the industrialization of molecular biology.

According to Donna Haraway, the immune system is one of the iconic and mythic objects of high technology culture in the 20th century (Haraway, 1995, 162). In her view, in the realms of the normal and the pathological myths entwine around the immune system as discourses between the self and the other, contributing to determine the limits of the self. She points to the tight links between myth, laboratory and the clinic. However, she bothers less about the materials and objects that are applied on a daily basis in research and clinical setting.

What is missing in Haraway’s considerations as much as in scientific or public debate is an account on the histories and the contexts of the objects themselves, the bloods, platelets, proteins that are present in contemporary biomedicine. I will argue that the objects and their fields of origin are left out because focusing on the collection process itself would mean to keep in mind the relation between humans and living things. Observing sampling techniques would mean to speak about the collector and his or her approach towards these goods before they are integrated into an established collection order or a biomedical paradigm.

Mabel Boyden was a custodian of the Serological Museum at Rutgers University (1948 – 1974) and active in the field of immuno-chemical research that led to the development of the LAL-test. In my talk I will follow her on a trip to collect the blood of the horseshoe crab. Her account that appeared in the Bulletin of the Serological Museum entails ‘speech figures’ and ‘myths’ (Haraway, 1995) that were as much constitutive as they were descriptive for the immunological discourse of her time. While her narrative was dedicated to ‘knowing and following the rules’, ‘to be ready for the crabs’ and to ‘the work of the day’, it offers insight into how the limits between the self and the other were negotiated in the mid 1960s – a time that was coined by a turn of the biological sciences towards the molecular level of the living things.

Priska Gisler has been a research fellow at the Collegium Helveticum (a transdisciplinary institution jointly hold by ETH Zurich and University of Zurich) since 2003 and is currently directing a research group on the project “Tracking the Human: Technologies of Collecting, Ordering and Comparing or The Problem of Relevant Knowledge”, and she is also head of the SNF-funded project “Research in Humans: The genealogy of a law in the making”. She is currently a visiting fellow at CSISP, Goldsmith College.

After her studies in Sociology, Social and Economic History and Modern History at University of Zurich, she completed a discourse analytical dissertation on gender politics (Universities of Bern and Potsdam) in 1999. From 1998 to 2003 she was senior scientist and lecturer at the Chair for Philosophy and Social Studies of Science, ETH Zurich. Priska Gisler has been teaching at ETH Zurich, the Universities of Zurich, Basel and Vienna, and the Zurich University of Fine Arts.


Uncanny Belongings: Bioethics and the technologies of fashioning flesh

Fiona K. O'Neill, Lancaster University
Wednesday, 11th March 4-6pm

Most of us will at some point experience bodily engagement with, and embodied support through, a 'biotechnology' ~ broadly understood here as any technology designed to work intimately with the human body and to some degree with its embodiment. Such biotechnologies not only affect a person's identity, but their overall sense of belonging.

So how might we experience, appreciate and understand some of these variously intimate human-technology relations, as with transplantation, prosthetics or hearing aids? What are the mimetic or animating potentialities of biotechnology? (Can Aristotle's work on psuché and philia give us some means to acknowledge these individual experiences?) And what of innovative and convergent somatechnics?

Such experiences of medical technologies and techniques can leave one with a certain disquiet. With reference to medical phenomenology and Wittgenstein's On Certainty, one can come to appreciate such experiences as speaking to our uncanny canniness ~ our bodily knowing. Thus, suggesting the clinical and ethical significance of such experiences for patients and practitioners alike, in a profession dominated by rational, evidence based practice. And how might our embodied experiences of uncanny illness, health and medicine background our ability to trust?

Looking from standard to future-present biotechnologies we see developments which treat the human body as a plastic resource ripe with potential. How might we appreciate the reasons, affects and effects of fashioning flesh? Indeed, what happens when we enter our bodies into the paradox and conundrum that is fashion? Might medicine already be caught up in the politics of fashioning bodies?

Dr Fiona O'Neill has an eclectic professional background as an educator, facilitator and researcher. Presently, she tutors medical students in the School for Health and Medicine at Lancaster University, is conducting freelance research for the Probation Service and is a member of the North West Research Ethics Committee. She recently conducted research for Nowgen / Cesagen on young persons' perspectives toward the treatment-enhancement debate, whilst developing her transdisciplinary doctoral studies; with several publications to date and forthcoming.

Her present work considers human-technology relations; the bodied and embodied bioethical issues within and beyond standard, innovative and convergent technologies of medicine. Thinking through public and personal experiences, narratives and expectations of well-being and uncertainty with regard to the clinical and ethical impact of biotechnological protocols and practices.

Interrogating the logic of care: the case of medically unexplained symptoms

Monica Greco, Sociology, Goldsmiths
Wednesday, 18th March 4-6pm

This paper responds to an invitation by Mol (2008) to articulate multiple varieties of the 'logic of care' in relation to situations, conditions, and examples other than Type 1 diabetes (which is the object of her own ethnography). Medically unexplained symptoms are chosen here as a case defined by much greater ambiguity, controversy, and arguably by the greater significance of dimensions of care that are purposely excluded from an object- and practice- centred approach. On this basis, the paper explores how we might think about the affective dimensions of (self-)care, and seeks to articulate some methodological implications with a view to investigating such dimensions empirically.

Monica Greco lectures in Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is the author of Illness as a Work of Thought (Routledge 1998), and of articles on aspects of psychosomatics, vitalism, and medical humanities. She has coedited The Body: A Reader (with M. Fraser, Routledge 2005) and The Emotions: A Social Science Reader (with P. Stenner, Routledge 2008).

All seminars will be in the seminar room 12th floor Warmington Tower

The Remaking of Sensorial Experience and the Politics of Speculative Constructivism

Friday, 3 October 2008
3:30-5 pm
Small Hall (Cinema), Richard Hoggart Building

Feminist knowledge politics in science and technology studies have engaged with an epistemological reclaiming of the worlds of emotions, affects and the sentient body as intrinsic to the world of fact production. The affirmation of the sensorial is one of the ways through which constructivist involvement with science and technology invokes the materiality and embodiment of experience. In this context, a move to touch appears as a speculative vision of feminist technology. This paper argues that reclaiming the possibility of touch requires attention to the politics of the expanding market of haptic technologies, which also speculates with the remaking of our sensorial experience.

This event is free and open to the public. csisp.


CSISP, Department of Sociology, Goldsmiths

What is Medicine?
Biobanking in Singapore: Post-developmental state, experimental population

Wednesday 1 October 2008, 4.00-6.00pm
Room 1204, 12th Floor, Warmington Tower

Like other wealthy states in East Asia, Singapore is busy building a bioeconomy. The government has allocated about $US 5 billion to life sciences research, under the aegis of the Biomedical Sciences Initiative (BMSI). In this paper I want to single out one important life sciences research project to consider some of the biopolitical implications of bioeconomic development, in Singapore, but also more generally. This project is the Singapore Consortium for Cohort Studies (SCCS), a large prospective population cohort designed to track gene environment interactions in metabolic disease, specifically type two diabetes and ischemic heart disease, diseases that have developed in the Singaporean population due to rapid modernization. I will use the Singapore Consortium for Cohort Studies as a site for examining the question: how are populations figured in bioeconomic development? To put it another way, what are the biopolitics of the bioeconomy? The Singapore example is telling, both because the rate of bioeconomic development is so startling and because it forms an explicit element in the state's attempt to reposition the national population in the global economy.

Catherine Waldby is International Research Fellow in the Department of Sociology and Social Policy, Sydney University and Visiting Professor at the Centre for Biomedicine and Society, King's College, London. She researches and publishes in social studies of biomedicine and the life sciences. Her books include AIDS and the Body Politic: Biomedicine and Sexual Difference (1996 Routledge), The Visible Human Project: Informatic Bodies and Posthuman Medicine (2000 Routledge) with Robert Mitchell Tissue Economies: Blood, Organs and Cell Lines in Late Capitalism (Duke University Press 2006) and with Herbert Gottweis and Brian Salter The Global Politics of Human Embryonic Stem Cell Research (Palgrave 2008). Her current research focuses on the stem cell sciences, regenerative medicine and biobanking, and the impacts of neo-liberalism and globalization on their research practices and tissue sourcing.