By Lisa Linden
On June 13th-14th 2019, the binary Nordic STS Conference was held in Tampere, Finland.
Together with Elena Bogdanova, Doris Lydahl and Linda Soneryd from the University of Gothenburg, I was co-organising the session Care in STS – Objects, Transformations and Politics. It was two highly thought-provoking and inspiring days full of discussions about the possibilities and troubles of doing research with and about care in STS. Taking up recent years’ discussion on care in STS, the session approached care as a material and ethico-political doing, and as an “affectively charged and selective mode of attention” (Martin et al. 2015: 635). Wanting to take seriously the tensions and frictions generated in and through politics and practices of care, in the session we asked questions such as: What is gained from studying practices as care practices and what is lost? What is made present and what is made absent? When and where is it fruitful to think about science and technology as matters of care?
Unpacking such questions, the session’s 18 presentation provided inspiring examples of how it is possible to hold on to the generativity and diversity of “care research” in STS. The two days started off with two session slots about healthcare and medicine. Taking up Michelle Murphy’s (2017) work on techniques of population control, Baki Cakcki from the IT University in Copenhagen discussed tensions between care and control through a case study of identification numbers in midwifery practice. As another example, Anna Mann from the University of Copenhagen took us via ethnographic storytelling to the world of nephrology care. Through close attention to processes of tinkering, she highlighted the importance of articulating alternatives that exist within medicine’s dominant ideals and practices. This was followed by an afternoon of papers interested in matters of care in settings of city and neighbourhood planning. For example, Maria Eidenskog (Linköping University), Sanne Rapp (Maastricht University) and Andy Yuille (Lancaster University) all analysed public participation in planning. Their talks highlighted, via their different empirical sites and locations, how a care approach allows close attention to the affectivities and materialities of public involvement in planning, as well as to the marginalisations and exclusions enacted in such sites. Finally, on the Friday, the conference continued with two session slots that showed-cased a range of possible new or emerging areas for care research in STS, and included empirical areas such as food waste, big data and market studies. Taking up the latter, Barbara Grimpe (University of Klagenfurt) combined STS studies of markets with care studies to analyse the “uneasy” relationship between care and economic matters. By drawing upon fieldwork on the making of a market for water supply, she analysed economic matters and care as intimately entangled. Another example was Tone Druglitrø (University of Oslo) who analysed care practices in a context of legislation and governance, namely that of animal research applications. By relating to work on care and policy (Gill et al. 2017), she showed how such applications in Norway articulate a care for an accountability system, and emphasised the importance of taking the politics and nuances of care in settings of governance, legislation and policy seriously.
Inspired and excited after the two days of presentations and conversations, we decided to plan for a special issue on the theme of “Care in STS” for the Nordic Journal of Science and Technology Studies. The deadline for abstracts is October 15th, and deadline for full paper will be on March 15th. Together with Doris Lydahl, I am one of the editors of the special issue. You can read more here: https://www.ntnu.no/ojs/index.php/njsts/announcement/view/38.
Gill, N., Singleton, V., and Waterton, C. 2017. “The Politics of Policy Practices.” The Sociological Review, 65 (2_suppl): 3–19.
Martin, A., Myers, N., & Viseu, A. 2015. “The Politics of Care in Technoscience.” Social Studies of Science, 45(5), 625-641.
Murphy, M. (2017). The Economization of Life. Durham: Duke University Press.