4th Biannual Conference
Social Sciences & Health Innovations:
May 23-25, 2019, Tomsk, Russia
Health sciences and care practices have advanced a lot. Yet, the search for an adequate response to contemporary health problems continues to be on the agenda of health policy, research, and practice. Consider antimicrobial resistance and the notorious case of tuberculosis – an ancient disease allied now with the HIV/AIDS epidemic and decreasing drug susceptibility of bacteria is all but dead despite the earlier optimistic expectations. Consider zoonotic diseases that emerge continuously as a result of the interactions between the different species and their environments. Consider health inequalities that persist despite the efforts to address their causes and to increase the accessibility of health care. Solutions are being developed for these and other wicked health problems, but how can these solutions be made to work and why is it that many do not? One inspiring way of approaching these questions starts from acknowledging the need to engage with multiplicities, highlighted in the field of health by Annemarie Mol and others.
Currently, we can observe a problematic tendency: efforts to innovate for health often avoid engaging with multiplicity. First, humans are often singled out as being exceptional among other species, with everything else viewed as a risk of threat to human health. Phenomena like mutual dependence and living together are not very well understood, despite that any single organism is always embedded in networks of ecological interactions. Second, the human body(as well as a patient) is expected to be universal. Yet, scholars like Margaret Lock and Maurizio Meloni have highlighted biosocial processes that over time produce what has been called ‘local biologies’. Third, diseases are often conceived as stable, discrete, and pre-given entities. Yet, the work of John Law and Vicky Singleton, among others, points to the contrary. They demonstrated, for example, that foot and mouth disease was enacted as many different things during an outbreak in Britain: in veterinary practice it was symptoms like blisters and fever; in the virological laboratory it was the antibodies binding to specific antigens, and in epidemiological research it was a condition that spreads through a susceptible population. Finally, evidence of what works tends to be assessed in terms of one clear hierarchy based on statistical norms regarding what counts as reliable knowledge. However, scholars like Vololona Rabeharisoa, Tiago Moreira, and Madeleine Akrich have discussed the appropriateness of different kinds of evidence for different kinds of questions and the evidentiary value of experiences of living with health conditions.
So, while species, bodies, diseases, and knowledges are multiple, the notion of multiplicity is mostly avoided in health care, governance, and sciences, where the strive for uniformity and best practices sometimes comes at the expense of applicability in specific local settings, and of sensitivity to the uncertain consequences of decisions and interventions.
This conference invites participants to discuss the notion of multiplicity and to engage with a diverse range of multiplicities that are too often bracketed in attempts to understand and address health problems and health innovations. How can multiplicity be conceptualized? How can concepts of multiplicity inspire productive ways of dealing with health problems? How can we account for and engage with the complexes of many species living together? How can novel health technologies relate to the multiple realities where diseases are practiced differently?
This Conference invites participants from social and biomedical sciences, the healthcare sector, and civil society organizations to reflect on the notion on multiplicity and to explore, how to innovate for health and wellbeing in ways that allow for affinity and continuous fine-tuning between diverse realities, knowledge and actors. The aim is to inspire and provide support for making a difference in the world of multiplicities. This conference is meant to serve as a platform to facilitate the dialogue between the social and biomedical scientists, civil society organizations and patient organizations, public health professionals and policy makers. As well, this conference aims to support the dialogue between scholars and practitioners working in the field of health innovations in the post-Soviet region and globally. The conference considers health-related innovations on different levels (from the community level to national programmes and global efforts) and of different kinds (conceptual, organisational, political).
- Vololona Rabeharisoa, Professor of Sociology, Center for the Sociology of Innovation, Mines-ParisTech, Paris, France; author of many contributions on the increasing involvement of civil society organizations in scientific and technical activities
- Maurizio Meloni, Associate Professor of Sociology, Alfred Deakin Institute for Citizenship and Globalisation, Deakin University, Australia; co-editor of the recent Palgrave Handbook of Biology and Society and Biosocial Matters: Rethinking Biology-Sociology Relationships
- Yan Vlasov, Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery, Samara State Medical University, Russia; Chair of the Patient Protection Council and Co-chair of the Russian Patients Union, Russia
Special online contribution by Annemarie Mol, Professor of Anthropology of the Body, University of Amsterdam, The Netherlands; author of books The Logic of Care and The Body Multiple.
The language of the Conference: English
This conference is the fourth international event organized as a collaborative endeavor by Maastricht University (the Netherlands), Tomsk State University and Siberian State Medical University (Russia). The previous conference in the series took place in 2017 and was titled Social Sciences and Health Innovations: Making Health Public (for details see:http://en.past-centre.ru/2016/10/fincall/)
With support from