Past Events

Beyond ‘Them’ and ‘Us’? Symposium, 18th September 2012 

Organised by Paul Strong and Emily Taylor 


Keynote Speakers:

Professor David Armstrong, King’s College London

Professor Rose Barbour, Open University

‘Beyond Them and Us’ aims to recover the notion of ‘enacting social science within public health’ as in itself a legitimate field of social enquiry and to begin to explore a range of creative and constructive restatements, responses and/or possible resolutions. The symposium is targeted especially at early career (doctoral and postdoctoral) social scientists working within public health who face issues and dilemmas similar to those described, although proposed contributions may come from those working in any setting and from any disciplinary background. Contributions focusing on specific empirical contexts (whether ‘successes’ or ‘failures’) and/ or taking a wider critical or reflective stance are equally welcome.


Conversations in Medical Anthropology

25th-26th April 2012

A two day round table event, organised with Dr M McDonald (Social Anthropology) and Dr Michael Banner (Dean at Trinity), provided an opportunity for researchers within the Unit interested in social science perspectives to engage in conversation with Margaret Lock and Sarah Franklin, both leading social anthropologists with an interest in biomedicine.


Borders, Boundaries and Thresholds of the Body

12 June-13 June 2009

Organised by Simon Cohn and Sonia Smith, held at CRASSH (link to CRASSH website:

This two-day workshop, based at Cambridge University’s interdisciplinary Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, assembled a core of notable speakers from UK, Europe, the USA and Australia, to think about the ways in which conceptualisations of the human body and its processes inevitably have to deal with variation and ambiguity. Drawing from disciplines including philosophy, social anthropology, the history of medicine, visual arts and the clinical fields of immunology and metabolism, the event explored the ways in which a tension frequently arises between knowledge based on fixed categories, such as specific illnesses or anatomical structures, and the reality of individual bodies and their living processes. Paired presentations, led by chosen discussants, covered a range of topics relating to how mess and disparity are negotiated and incorporated into ideas about the body, its systems, notions of health and definitions of illness. The workshop invited participants to describe different practices involved in negotiating anatomical, classification and diagnostic understandings of the body, and explore how active concepts such as thresholds and tolerance are regularly central to ensure that more traditional static notions, such as borders and boundaries, are actually operationalised.

Discussions about the body have become increasingly central both in contemporary academic and public discourse, reflecting new concerns about property ownership, bioethics and biotechnological advances. In addition, modern medicine is increasingly adopting a view of complexity that links a wide range of traditional specialisms and defies simple models of disease. However, there currently exists a void between these developments and concerns, and more phenomenological and ethnographic accounts relating to lived experience and everyday practice. Thus, whilst there is a rich and established tradition of sociological, historical and anthropological discussions of the body, this work has rarely been linked to studies of science and medicine itself, and the ways knowledge about both the healthy and ill body is constructed and practiced.

This event brought together a genuinely interdisciplinary set of international speakers, all variously engaged in questioning the ways in which the body is described and made known. It aimed to provide a unique space to share and explore this topic, catalyse new ways of theorising the production of knowledge about the body, and to promote new debate and questions to be pursued in future.


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