Spring 2021 Virtual Workshop

Medical Posthumanities: Governing Health Beyond the Human

Illustration courtesy of NIH Nanotechnology Image Library collection.

2021 Baldy Center Workshop — Medical Posthumanities: Governing Health Beyond the Human. Illustration courtesy of NIH Nanotechnology Image Library.

April 14, 15 & 16, 2021:  Join us for the virtual workshop, Medical Posthumanities: Governing Health Beyond the Human. While medical humanities have tended to focus almost exclusively on humans, a medical posthumanities, by contrast, would take seriously the role of "more-than-human" actors to explore the complex entanglements of human, animal, and ecological health. Given that the human individual has long served as the subject of liberal societies and the systems of governance to which they gave rise, the legal implications of a medical posthumanities are immediate. Related link: Irus Braverman discusses medical posthumanities on The Baldy Center Podcast.

Workshop Organizing Committee

Irus Braverman  (UB School of Law) Professor; William J. Magavern Faculty Scholar

James J. Bono  (UB Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences) Emeritus Faculty

Lucinda Cole  (University of Illinois) Research Associate Professor (English); Affiliate Professor, Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and the Environment, University of Illinois

Jennifer A. Surtees  (UB Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Department of Biochemistry) Associate Professor

Paul Vanouse  (UB CAS Art) Professor; Director, Coalesce Center for Biological Art

Workshop Sponsor

The Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy

Authors, Abstracts, Bios

ONLINE EVENT

The event is free and open to the public with advance registration. Further information is forthcoming.

Schedule and Registration

April 14,15 & 16, 2021 — Wedesday, Thursday, Friday. Program and registration forthcoming.

Authors, Paper Abstracts, Bios

Irus Braverman and Lucinda Cole, Why “Medical Posthumanities?”

Irus Braverman.

Irus Braverman

Lucinda Cole.

Lucinda Cole

Abstract

Because most diseases are zoonotic, a capacious medical humanities needs to take into account the complex intersections among human, animal, and ecosystem health. One step in this direction is taking seriously what One Health practitioners have long insisted: that human, animal, and ecosystem health are deeply interdependent. An equally important step, however, is to acknowledge the lessons of posthumanism—primarily, that we must reject a nature-culture dualism inherited from the Enlightenment, and that we must recognize the extent to which humanist and neoliberal models of the self encourage us to perceive ourselves and our suffering bodies as somehow separate from the word we inhabit. Focusing on two examples from the history of medicine, we demonstrate how a genuinely posthumanist approach to the medical humanities encourages us to perceive the human body as one among many bodies, and humans not as exceptions to or dominators of the natural order, but as part of a living continua populated by myriad species with whom we share a biosphere and a microbiome. 

Bios

Irus Braverman is professor of law and adjunct professor in geography at the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. Her books include Planted Flags: Trees, Land, and Law in Israel/Palestine (2009), Zooland: The Institution of Captivity (2012), Wild Life: The Institution of Nature (2015), and Coral Whisperers: Scientists on the Brink (2018). Her most recent monograph Zoo Veterinarians: Governing Care on a Diseased Planet (2021) highlights the recent transformation that has occurred in the zoo veterinarian profession during a time of ecological crisis, and what these changes can teach us about our rapidly changing planet.

Lucinda Cole is Research Associate Professor (English) and Affiliate Professor, Institute for Sustainability, Energy, and Environment at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She is author of Imperfect Creatures: Vermin, Literatures, and the Sciences of Life, 1600-1740 (University of Michigan Press, 2016). Her articles have appeared in such venues as ELHCriticismJournal for Early Modern Cultural StudiesConfigurations, and Journal for Critical Animal Studies, and in numerous collections on animals and animality, literature and medicine. She is now writing a book on posthumanism, medicine, and zoonotic diseases.

Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr, Thermoception

Ionat Zurr.

Ionat Zurr

Oron Catts.

Oron Catts

Abstract

Regulating the temperatures for optimal biological performance is something that earth and many of its inhabitants share. A deviation in the temperature range of operation seems to indicate a potential problem – be it global heating or a person expressing one of COVID-19’s symptoms. Sensing, measuring and regulating temperature is a one-health issue as it pertains to the health of people, other animals and the environment. This is also an emerging bio-political issue that controls movement and access of biological and planetary bodies. Life evolves through the interplay of existing traits’ adaptation to changing environmental conditions. Many organisms opt to keep their insides shielded in near optimal conditions in order for biological function and homeostatic equilibrium to be maintained. It is based on the fact that mammals (and birds) evolved to maintain and regulate their body’s temperature in near optimal condition for biological processes. When something goes wrong, such as in the case a virus infection, the body often respond in raising its temperature. This change in body temperature is now used as part of the biopolitical theatre of control and containment enabled by humans’ technological ability to sense and measure heat, through the use of the thermometer. Invented in 1620 by Cornelis Drebbel, the technological tool to maintain and regulate temperature is the thermostat. It is considered as the (one of the) first (first order) cybernetic devices, in that allows for feedback control. It is not surprising that it was used to outsource the care for other lifeforms to a technological device. Our bodies are both a thermometer (through Thermoception) and a thermostat. Here we will discuss the concept, history and bio-politics of Thermoception.

Bios

Oron Catts and Ionat Zurr are award winning artists, researchers and curators who formed the internationally renowned Tissue Culture & Art Project in 1996. Catts is the Co-Founder and Director of SymbioticA: the Centre of Excellence in Biological Arts, School of Human Sciences at the University of Western Australia (UWA) and was a Professor of Contestable Design at the Royal College for the Arts UK. Dr Ionat Zurr is the Chair of the Fine Arts Discipline at the School of Design UWA and SymbioticA’s academic co-ordinator. Both are Visiting Professor at Biofilia – Based for Biological Arts, Aalto University, Finland (2015-2020). They have been visiting scholars at The Centre of Arts and Art History at Stanford University (2007) and Research Fellows at The Tissue Engineering & Organ Fabrication Laboratory, Harvard Medical School (2000-2001).

Danielle Celermajer, Multispecies Justice: Too Much and not Enough

Danielle Celermajer.

Danielle Celermajer

Abstract

In the contemporary post-humanities, theories of justice are increasingly seen as insufficiently radical to address contemporary harms both amongst humans and in the more than human world. Justice here stands accused for its abstractness and putative implication in imperialist projects and anthropocentric logics. Preferred frames deploy ideas of relationality, care, and networked and emergent ontologies. Yet these latter approaches provide scant guidance of making normative choices in the face of divergent interests and contemporary crises. At the same time, in the field of politics, claims that use the language of justice in recognition of the interests of beings other than humans are seen as too radical. Theorists seeking to work out a normative frame for promoting the good of beings other than humans thus find that when they use the language of justice, they are met with objections of being too much and not enough. As we face urgent conflicts around the interests of animals, ecosystems, viruses, and differently located humans, in the absence of some type of ethical principles for guiding decisions, the likely alternative is decision making through force. This paper considers the ethical stakes and responsibilities of theorists in this contentious space. 

Bio

Danielle Celermajer is a Professor of Sociology and Social Policy at the University of Sydney and lead of the Sydney Environment Institute Multispecies Justice project.  In recent years, her work has moved from a focus on human rights to the interface of human, animal and environmental justice. Her publications include Sins of the Nation and the Ritual of Apology (Cambridge University Press 2009) and The Prevention of Torture: An Ecological Approach (Cambridge University Press, 2018) and Multispecies justice: theories, challenges, and a research agenda for environmental politics. Recognising the critical urgency of conveying the multispecies harms of the climate catastrophe in actin provoking ways, her forthcoming Summertime  will be published by Penguin in early 2021. 

Maneesha Deckha, The One Health Initiative – Why it Must Oppose Animal Farming and Animal Research

Maneesha Deckha.

Maneesha Deckha

Abstract

At the Opening of its Mission Statement, the One Health Initiative states that “(r)ecognizing that human health (including mental health via the human-animal bond phenomenon), animal health, and ecosystem health are inextricably linked, One Health seeks to promote, improve, and defend the health and well-being of all species…”  (One Health Initiative, 2020). It is not clear, however, that the One Health Initiative (OHI) opposes two uses of animals that entail significant if not devastating health concerns for humans and the environment, and fatal ones for animals both individually and, sometimes, as a species: the farming of animals for human consumption of their flesh or byproducts such as milk or eggs, or the breeding of animals or their use for research testing. Farming and research are spaces where animals not only suffer serious harm and death, but also are deliberately bred into lives of disease and deformity to enhance their economic or use value. In this contribution, I argue that a commitment to OHI, in order to not undermine its transformative vision, should entail a clear objection to virtually all farming and research use of animals.

Bio

Maneesha Deckha is Professor and Lansdowne Chair in Law at the University of Victoria. Her research interests include feminist and critical animal studies, animal law and legalities, and reproductive law. She is widely published and has received grants from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and other funding bodies. She has also held the Fulbright Visiting Chair in Law and Society at New York University. Her book project on feminism, postcolonialism and critical animal law entitled Animals as Legal Beings: Contesting Anthropocentric Legal Orders is forthcoming from the University of Toronto Press. She serves as the Director of the Animal Studies Research Initiative at the University of Victoria and is a Brooks Animal Studies Academic Network Fellow. 

Laura H. Kahn, Implementing a One Health Approach to Global Health

Dr. Laura H. Kahn.

Dr. Laura H. Kahn

Abstract

In Sapiens, Yuval Noah Harari, the Israeli historian, wrote that the Abrahamic religions, the agriculture religions, created humans in the image of God to rule over all other animals and the Earth.[1] This belief in humanity’s omnipotence to do whatever it wants with other animals and the planet has had deleterious impacts on health and well-being. One Health is the concept that human, animal, and environmental/ecosystem health are linked. We must recognize our connectedness with the other animals and our dependence upon a healthy planet if we are to survive as a species. We are surprised when our actions such as the trade, slaughter, and consumption of endangered species results in the emergence of a deadly pandemic. Even worse, our wastes are contaminating the planet. Over 7.5 billion humans and over 30 billion food mammals constitute 96 to 98 percent of the total mammalian zoomass on Earth, producing almost 4 trillion kgs of fecal matter, contaminating soils and waters, and emitting greenhouse gasses.[2][3] If we are to have a sustainable future, we must implement a One Health approach to global health.

[1] Harari YN. Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind. HarperCollins, New York. 2015.

[2] Zeller U, Starik N, Gottert T. (2017) Biodiversity, Land Use and Ecosystem Services—An Organismic and Comparative Approach to Different Geographical Regions. Global Ecology and Conservation. 10: 114-125.

[3] Berendes DM, Yang PJ, Lai A, et al. (2018) Estimation of Global Recoverable Human and Animal Faecal Biomass. Nature Sustainability. 1: 679-685.

Bio

Dr. Laura H. Kahn is a physician and research scholar with the Program on Science and Global Security at the Princeton University School of Public and International Affairs. In 2006, she published Confronting Zoonoses, Linking Human and Veterinary Medicine in the CDC journal Emerging Infectious Diseases that helped launch the  One Health Initiative.  Kahn is the author of two books: Who’s in Charge? Leadership During Epidemics, Bioterror Attacks, and Other Public Health Crises and One Health and the Politics of Antimicrobial Resistance. In June 2020, she launched her Coursera course: Bats, Ducks, and Pandemics: An Introduction to One Health Policy which has thousands of students from around the world. In 2014, Kahn received a Presidential Award for Meritorious Service from the American Association of Public Health Physicians, and, in 2016, the American Veterinary Epidemiology Society (AVES) awarded her with their highest honor for her work in One Health: the K.F. Meyer-James H. Steele Gold Head Cane Award.

Frederic Keck, Birds as sentinels of the environment in Hong Kong and Taiwan

Frédéric Keck.

Frédéric Keck

Abstract

After the emergence of the H5N1 influenza virus in Hong Kong in 1997, virologists and birdwatchers have allied to monitor viruses among wild birds as early warning signs of pandemics and other environmental disasters. This collaboration borrowed models of colonial science in Hong Kong and Taiwan, and  opened it to models of citizen science. I will ask how this alliance has changed the view of birds in these two territories and fostered a One Health Agenda, arguing that if the pandemic was anticipated as the potential extinction of humanity, threats of bird extinction have symmetrically produced forms of solidarity between birds and humans.

Bio

Frédéric Keck is Director of Research at the Laboratory of Social Anthropology (CNRS-Collège de France-EHESS). After studying philosophy at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris and Anthropology at the University of California at Berkeley , he has been researching the history of social anthropology and contemporary biopolitical questions raised by avian influenza. He has been the director of the research department of the musée du quai Branly between 2014 and 2018. He published Claude Lévi-Strauss, une introduction (Pocket-La découverte, 2005), Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, entre philosophie et anthropologie (CNRS Editions, 2008) Un monde grippé ( Flammarion, 2010) and Avian Reservoirs : Virus Hunters and Birdwatchers in Chinese Sentinel Posts, (Duke University Press, 2020),. He has co-edited (with N..Vialles ) Des hommes malades des animaux, L' Herne, 2012 and (with A. Lakoff) Sentinel devices,, Limn, 2013. He received the bronze medal of CNRS in 2012 and is a fellow of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

Susan McHugh, Rabies on Ice: Learning from Interspecies Suffering in Arctic Canada

Susan McHugh.

Susan McHugh

Abstract

Rabies control stories highlight the challenges of decolonizing planetary-health initiatives through posthumanist approaches to human-animal relationships. As Deborah Nadal’s Rabies in the Streets: Interspecies Camaraderie in Urban India shows, One Health approaches are making great strides in rabies control in regions where historically the disease is endemic. Yet, for cultures where the arrival of rabies coincided with settler colonialism, the story can never be so simple. Building on my research on the Qikiqtani Truth Commission’s inquiry into the mid-twentieth-century disappearance of qimmit, or Inuit sled dogs, in Arctic Canada, I will explore how cultural and historical factors complicate not only the Eurowestern conventional separate-and-exterminate approach but also the Traditional Ecological Knowledges of disease control in this case. Rabies threatened not only lives but also the unique interdependence of people and dogs foundational to Inuit culture, in ways that are instructive for developing initiatives to address zoonoses with greater cultural sensitivity.

Bio

Susan McHugh, Professor of English at the University of New England USA, researches and teaches literary, visual, and scientific narratives of cross-species relations.  She is the author of Love in a Time of Slaughters: Human-Animal Stories Against Genocide and Extinction (2019), Animal Stories: Narrating across Species Lines (2011), and Dog (2004, 2019). She is co-editor of The Palgrave Handbook of Animals and Literature (2020), Posthumanism in Art and Science: A Reader (2020), Human-animal Studies (2018), Indigenous Creatures, Native Knowledges, and the Arts (2017), and The Routledge Handbook of Human-Animal Studies (2014). McHugh serves as co-editor of the book series Palgrave Studies in Animals and Literature and managing editor of the humanities for Society & Animals.

Rodrigo Medellin, Bats and Covid: Myths, Realities, and Hope in Pandemic Times

Rodrigo Medellin.

Rodrigo Medellin

Abstract

We live in unprecedented times, which have us tired, worn out, depressed. Our minds flies to find a culprit, and the media and some scientists point a flaming finger to bats. Nothing is further from reality. In my talk, I will cover the available evidence and facts regarding emerging infectious diseases, pathogens, and bats. We know only an infinitesimal proportion of the viruses that experts estimate to exist. Very few viruses are pathogenic, and the vast majority of coronaviruses do us little or no harm. Bats are crucial for the functioning of ecosystems and for our every-day well-being. The best way to defend ourselves against the next pandemic is by conserving biodiversity and ecosystems. But we must also reassess our habits, and each of us has a lot to do to contribute to a bright and sustainable future for biodiversity and for ourselves.

Bio

Dr. Rodrigo A. Medellín works on conservation of mammals with emphasis on applied and policy-driven science, as a Senior Professor at the Institute of Ecology, UNAM. He is an established leader in the field of mammal conservation, and was President of the Society for Conservation Biology (2013-2015) and CoChair of the CITES Animals Committee (2002-2012). Rodrigo is Co-Chair of the IUCN Bat Specialist Group, Scientific Councilor, Convention on Migratory Species, Founding Director of the Latin American Network for Bat Conservation, and creator of Global South Bats, a network of bat scientists in Africa, Asia, and Latin America He has produced over 60 theses and 200 publications. His work has been featured in various documentaries from the BBC, National Geographic and other production houses. He is a Rolex Award Laureate, 2012 Whitley Gold Award winner, and the seventh Explorer-At-Large of the National Geographic Society.

Susan Merrill Squier, Reconsidering Chicken Culture: One Health and Coronavirus Comics

Susan Squier.

Susan Squier

Abstract

In Poultry Science, Chicken Culture, I interviewed a diagnostic avian vet who told me that the greatest risk posed by the avian flu was “to the emotional health of farmers and their families.”  This talk returns to that interspecies perspective on emotional and physical health to explore how chickens have been enrolled as a source of community and comfort during the Coronavirus Pandemic, another SARS illness. Methodologically, this talk draws from my exploration, in Epigenetic Landscapes, of drawing as a mode of scaled scientific thinking as well as from the process-based focus on drawing as a health care intervention central to the field of Graphic Medicine.  I will argue that the drawing process enables the materially-specific and scaled modeling of One Health. Among the graphic narratives I will touch on in my talk are Gerry Alanguilan’s prizewinning Elmer (2010), a prize-winning comic that addresses contagion, industrial agriculture, and the rights of chickens. 

Bio

Susan Squier is Brill Professor Emerita of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Penn State University.  Her publications include, most recently, Epigenetic Landscapes: Drawings as Metaphor, as well as Poultry Science, Chicken Culture: A Partial Alphabet,  Liminal Lives: Imagining the Human at the Frontiers of Biomedicine, the co-edited volume PathoGraphics: Narrative, Aesthetics, Contention, Community, and the co-authored Graphic Medicine Manifesto.  In January 2021 she concludes her three-year term as Einstein Visiting Fellow at the Freie Universität, Berlin, where she was part of the PathoGraphics project. She is the founding president of the Graphic Medicine International Collective, a non-profit organization dedicated to supporting the uses of comics in health.

Chris Walzer, Spillover Interfaces from Wuhan to Wallstreet – One Health and Capital

Dr. Chris Walzer.

Dr. Chris Walzer

Abstract

The world is in turmoil. A novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2) has catapulted across the ever-evolving interface between humans and wildlife relentlessly spreading coronavirus disease (COVID-19) to the farthest reaches of our planet. What was immediately apparent was that the virus responsible for this outbreak originated in wild animals. The increasing incidence of zoonotic-origin viral spillover events is a symptom of ailing planetary health. As human activities and encroachment increasingly undermine the integrity of naturally balanced ecosystems, environmental health and resilience are compromised. We are starkly reminded of the basic fact: Human, animal, plant, and environmental health and well-being are intrinsically connected—One Health. Underpinning One Health is an ethical framework that aims to foster the health of humans, animals, and their shared environments and to endorse collaboration that radically breaks down disciplinary and policy silos to this end. The current entwined emergencies of public health, biodiversity loss, and climate change clearly illustrate the impossibility of protecting human health in isolation from the health of other animals and the environment. But these three emergencies also bring to the forefront two related values that are key to developing joined-up ethical thinking in the context of One Health: solidarity and environmental justice.

Bio

Dr. Chris Walzer is the Executive Director of Health at the Wildlife Conservation Society. He is a board-certified wildlife veterinarian, professor of Conservation Medicine at the University of Veterinary Medicine in Vienna, Austria. He has worked extensively in the Gobi region of Mongolia linking wildlife health with the conservation of the Przewalski’s horse and the Asiatic wild ass. He has additionally led successful large-scale EU-funded ecological connectivity and biodiversity conservation projects in the Alps. Chris is the recipient of several research and service awards most notably the Distinguished Environmentalist Award from the Mongolian Ministry of Nature and Environment.

Abigail Woods, One Health in History

Abigail Woods.

Abigail Woods

Abstract

The call for a One Health approach that transcends species, disciplinary and professional boundaries is predicated on the existence of discrete, distinctive domains of human and veterinary medicine, whose separation must be overcome to achieve health benefits for all. But are human and veterinary medicine really as separate as One Health commentary implies? Adopting a historical perspective, and with reference to specific examples over the period 1790-1900, this paper will reveal that until relatively recently, the boundaries between these fields were extremely fluid. Historically, human medicine was often deeply zoological – encompassing a host of species drawn from across the animal kingdom. While today’s discussions of One Health privilege animals as conduits of disease to humans, or as experimental models of human disease, past animal participants in medicine were far more than that. As victims of naturally occurring diseases, they enabled medical doctors to think generically and comparatively about medical and biological problems, while as clinical subjects, they encouraged doctors to perform interventions that overlapped with those of veterinary professionals. The history of these diseased animals reveals many examples of collaboration between doctors and vets. Their management could also provoke competition, which led to the hardening of professional boundaries, and paradoxically, in time, to efforts to transcend them under the banner of One Health.

Bio

Abigail Woods joined the University of Lincoln in May 2020 as Pro-Vice Chancellor / Head of College of Arts. Previously, she worked at King’s College London, Imperial College London and the University of Manchester, where she completed her PhD in Medical History. She trained originally as a veterinary surgeon, qualifying from Cambridge in 1996. She is the lead author of One Health and its Histories: Animals and the Shaping of Modern Medicine (Palgrave, Basingstoke, 2018).

Medical Posthumanities: Governing Health Beyond the Human.

2021 Baldy Center Workshop — Medical Posthumanities: Governing Health Beyond the Human. Illustration courtesy of NIH Nanotechnology Image Library.