Locating the Social

1st International HIV Social Science and Humanities Conference

11-1 June 2011, ICC Durban, South Africa

Conference Co-chairs:  Mary Crewe, Susan Kippax, Marsha Rosengarten

This is the first international conference aimed at discussing and supporting contributions of the social sciences and humanities to HIV research and action.

HIV is a profoundly social disease, the causes and consequences of which are deeply embedded in the social, cultural and political processes that shape national development, social institutions and civil society, interpersonal relations, and the everyday lives of communities, families and peoples. One of the most distinct contributions to be made by the social sciences and the humanities has been their ability to integrate multiple levels of empirical evidence and model complex, non-linear, dynamic relationships in ways that may reconfigure our understanding of otherwise seemingly intractable problems and offer novel strategies in their place. Social science also emphasizes a critical, reflexive stance and willingness to confront the social, ethical, and political dimensions of scientific investigations of the epidemic. Most evident in the history of the epidemic to date is the contribution by the social sciences and the humanities to successful HIV prevention efforts such as the normalisation of condom use against sexual transmission and the introduction of safe injecting equipment for injecting drug use. Social scientific research has also provided insights into issues related to the treatment and care of people living with HIV and AIDS, and has addressed the broader social and political barriers to effective responses to HIV.

Yet there have been few forums in which scholars from different social science and humanities disciplines can come together to develop connections among the various phenomena we study, and between ourselves and our biomedical, policy and community based colleagues. Little attention has been given to enlivening interdisciplinary exchanges on the tools of our trade, the place of innovation in theory and method, and the modes of engagement with and collaboration with biomedicine.

This conference will aim to provide such a forum: a forum for those keen to extend the scope of the social sciences and its capacity to trace connections between all kinds of phenomenon, notably those that contribute to the complexity and changing nature of the epidemic.

Speakers for the 1st International HIV Social Science and Humanities Conference include:

    * Dr Fred Eboko

    * Prof Ezekiel Kalipeni

    * Dr Kane Race

    * Mr Jonathan Stadler

    * Dr Fraser McNeill

    * Dr Sam Friedman

    * Dr Judith Auerbach

    * Prof Vihn Kim Nyugen

    * Prof Gary Dowsett

    * Prof Peter Aggleton

    * Dr Martin Holt

    * Dr Rebecca Hodes

    * Prof Nicoli Nattrass

    * Prof Aggee Lomo

    * Dr Kate Philip

Accumulation: the material ecologies and economies of plastic

21 June 2011, 10 am to 6 pm

Goldsmiths, University of London

LG01 New Academic Building

A one day interdisciplinary symposium organized by the Centre for Invention and Social Process and Design Department, Goldsmiths, University of London, and the Centre for Critical and Cultural Studies, University of Queensland, Australia.

More than any other material, plastic has become emblematic of economies of abundance and ecological destruction. If the postwar ‘plastics age’ was cleaner and brighter than all that preceded it, its boosterism has now become intertwined with anxiety as the burdens of accumulating and leaching plastics wastes are registered in environments and bodies. Plastic accumulates meanings, functions, concerns, visibilities, values, properties and futures – how then to make sense of this? 

The purpose of this interdisciplinary workshop is to explore the vitality, complexity and irony of plastic and, as such, to examine a range of issues that cut across arts, humanities, natural sciences, politics and the social sciences. Among the questions to be addressed will be: How does plastic act simultaneously as raw material, object and process? How might recognition of the material force of plastic prompt new forms of politics, environmental responsibility and citizenship? Is it possible to engage with the processual materiality or plasticity of plastic without fixing it as an object of study or illustrative case? What is the future of plastic as an assemblage of carbon in the context of peak oil and the shift toward new carbon economies? How can we develop an analytics attentive to how plastic might provoke invention and invite certain forms of material thinking? In the realm of natural-cultural ecologies how does the recalcitrance of plastic, its durability and persistence, reveal the relational exchanges between human and nonhuman?

Speakers will include: Bernadette Bensaude-Vincent, Tom Fisher, Jennifer Gabrys, Gay Hawkins, Celia Lury, James Marriott, Mike Michael and Richard Thompson.

The symposium is free but seats are limited. To reserve a place please contact:


Making and Opening: Entangling Design and Social Science

A one-day conference on Design and Social Science,

Goldsmiths, University of London

24 September 2010

Sponsored by: Centre for the Study of Invention and Social Process, Interaction Research Studio, Incubator for Critical Inquiry into Technology and Ethnography.

Design and social science disciplines intersect at a number of points. While there is excellent work exploring many of these points of contact, there is also a tendency for social science to treat design as a topic (eg what does design do and how might this be accounted for in sociological terms?), and for design to treat social science as a resource (eg what useful knowledge does sociology produce and how can this be deployed to model users or construct scenarios?).

This day conference will contribute to the move beyond this pattern. Collecting a group of leading practitioners in design and social science, the conference will present a series of dialogues and commentaries on a range of common, open issues:

- Speculation/Anticipation;

- Participation/Impact;

- Discipline/Contamination;

- Making/Method.

In the process, the conference will explore possible, emergent interrelations and synergies between design and social science, for example: how might the practices of speculative or critical designers furnish social science with new insights into the study and articulation of society? How might social science's interest in complexity contribute to the iterative process of making in design?

Speakers will include: Bill Gaver, Pelle Ehn, Mike Michael, Bill Moggridge, Harvey Molotch, Michelle Murphy, Lucy Suchman, Nina Wakeford.

This event is financially supported by the Economic and Social Research Council and is part of London Design Festival.

Race and Medicine: Toward Ethical Noninnocence

a seminar with Anne Pollock, Assistant Professor of Science, Technology and Culture

5 - 7pm, 26 September 2011

Centre for the Study of Invention and Social Process (CSISP)
1204 Warmington Tower
Goldsmiths, University of London

Too often, academic engagement with topics of race and medicine uses a grammar of lamentation, adopting an aggrieved subject position and mourning the racialization perpetuated by powerful discourses such as genomic research and pharmaceuticalized medicine.  For example, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved BiDil for “heart failure in self-identified black patients,” there was quick consensus in the critical studies of race and medicine that this was an egregious example of the geneticization of race and pharmaceutical profiteering.  Paradoxically, part of the problem with this approach is that it is too comfortable: biomedicine appears far more stable than it is, and the analyst far less implicated.  Pointing out that any given present or future racialized medical technology emerges from a historical context of racial oppression or serves vested interests is only one component of critique.  Paying attention to the partial and contingent sites of resistance it opens up is also vital to avoiding decontextualization.  So is leaving space open for surprise.  This talk uses BiDil as an example to argue that in the face of racialized biomedical technologies, we should resist traditional bioethics’ call to embrace or to debunk, and instead strive for ethical noninnocence.  Our deep engagement with the context of racialized technologies should take into account not only the residue of a horrific history and the specter of an unacceptable future, but also the unbearable present.  We should feel suspicious of any position that promises to settle something as fraught as a new intersection of race and medicine, and strive not to provide a yes or no answer, but to engage in an ongoing process of making medicine answerable to truth and justice.

Anne Pollock  is an Assistant Professor of Science, Technology and Culture at Georgia Tech, and a visiting scholar at the BIOS Centre at the London School of Economics. Her research focuses on biomedicine and culture. She is particularly interested in how medical categories and technologies are enrolled in telling stories about identity and difference, especially with regard to race, gender, and citizenship. Her forthcoming book, Medicating Race: Heart Disease and Durable Preoccupations with Difference, tracks the intersecting discourses of race, pharmaceuticals, and heart disease in the United States from the founding of cardiology to the commercial failure of BiDil. She is also engaged in ongoing projects in three areas: feminism and heart disease; American health disparities and citizenship claims; and global pharmaceuticals amid economic crisis and the pharmaceuticalization of philanthropy.

This event was part of 'What is Ethics?' An on-going seminar series at CSISP organised by Marsha Rosengarten.