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Wednesday, December 4 • 9:00am - 11:00am

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Session Chair: Aimee B. Simpson 

Supuni Liyanagunawardena: From harsh pills to powerful pirith thread: Exploring the thing-power of medications

Medications are administered to bodies to bring about some (desirable) change, though their impact often transcends pharmacological efficacy. In a pluralistic medical landscape where biomedicine is juxtaposed against diverse folk and traditional therapeutics, the effects of medications further multiply in their entanglements with state policy, national identity and communal relationships. From my on-going doctoral research into everyday medication practices in a rural community in Sri Lanka, I draw on people’s engagement in diverse therapeutics that involve (and often combine) biomedical pharmaceuticals, plant-based remedies, Buddhist rituals and supernatural healing. To explore such dynamic and ambivalent interactions with a plethora of medications, I propose a vital materialist perspective as theorized by Jane Bennet. Based on data from qualitative interviews with 20 participating households, I delve into the ‘thing-power’ of medications, highlighting their capacity to ‘enchant’, transform and actively form human-nonhuman assemblages. Recognizing medications as nonhuman actants, I argue, could offer fresh insights into people-medication interactions and have important implications for public health approaches towards people’s medication practices.

Andrew Dickson: Fat is a fictional issue

In her seminal text, commonly referred too as FIFI, Susie Orbach proposes a diagrammatic representation of the ‘fat woman’. My descriptor of Orbach’s text as seminal is of course deliberate. Her text is super-saturated in phallic logic – the ease with which one can imagine themselves besuited in a lard-layer, waiting for a release, for thigh-gap to be reinstated, the proper woman. No wonder it is still a best-seller. Orbach’s text demonstrates the illogic characteristic between fa(c)t and fiction, her work is ostensibly factual, yet this image exists only in the fiction of phallic logic. In this presentation I will attempt to insert a prybar between the layers to consider how Lacan’s logic of sexuation can help us to understand the desire of/for thin in an age of the rampant obese. I will do this via the emerging radical qualitative method known, intriguingly, as autotheory.

Laura Starling: A New Zealand Perspective on Networked Publics and Trust in Contraceptive Apps

Social media influencers are becoming increasingly wide-reaching and influential, and many specialise in health and well-being. They use their platform to display ideal neoliberal citizenship by both actively participating in and promoting neoliberal capitalist ideology through the process of self-objectification and self-branding. Given that many social media influencers are lifestyle bloggers who promote health and well-being related products, they assume a level of medical authority to those in their networked publics. Authority is awarded to them by their community of followers and through the development of social capital in online networks. This research is particularly interested in the promotion and sale of reproductive health apps, which are advertised to followers as reliable and trustworthy forms of safe contraception. I will specifically focus on New Zealand-based social media influencers that promote reproductive health apps. Applying the Quantified Self and Goffman’s presentation of the self, a netnography of a networked public will be used examine trust and neoliberalism.

Alex Ker: Exploring trans and non-binary people’s epistemic agency when accessing gender-affirming hormones

Trans and non-binary people currently face barriers to accessing gender-affirming healthcare. These barriers, such as long waiting times and denial of care, are a result of the longstanding lack of transparent information, education, and funding towards gender-affirming care. While these barriers exist in Aotearoa, little is known about how these barriers affect trans people’s agency over their bodies, gender and healthcare. This presentation draws on my honours dissertation, in which I use the concept of epistemic injustice to explore eight trans people’s experiences of agency when accessing gender-affirming hormones in Wellington. Participants’ experiences suggest that trans people are required to perform epistemic labour to prove themselves as credible, knowledgeable and certain when accessing hormones. This labour is perceived as unfair and disproportionate to other healthcare, yet necessary to be perceived as a competent agent. In situations where trans people’s agency is affirmed, healthcare professionals trust people’s testimonies and engage in shared decision-making processes. This research highlights the need for healthcare providers to reconsider their epistemic responsibilities when providing care for populations that have historically been marginalised in healthcare settings.

Each presentation will be allocated 20 minutes. Additional time for questions and discussion will be available in each stream.

avatar for Aimee B. Simpson

Aimee B. Simpson

PhD Candidate, University of Auckland
Sociology PhD student based at the University of Auckland. Interested in sociology of medicine, the body and issues relating to health. Currently working on an analysis of obesity discourses and their effects on understandings of fatness, health and identity using a fat studies l... Read More →

Supuni Liyanagunawardena

PhD candidate, Victoria University of Wellington
My research is in Sociology of Health. For my PhD, I'm studying medication practices in rural households in Sri Lanka. Currently exploring new materialisms.

Wednesday December 4, 2019 9:00am - 11:00am NZDT
206-215 - Seminar Room 5