219: Topics in Medical Anthropology

Instructor: Lawrence Cohen

Time: Tu 2:00 pm - 4:59 pm 

Units: 4

Course Number: 32613

Seminar. Requirement weekly attendance, reading, précises. If taking course for grade final paper required, topic open but germane to seminar topic.

By the mid-20thcentury, the development of the computer was associated with what was taken as an unprecedented “explosion” of information. Library and archive emerge as sites of reform to manage and utilize this plenitude even as multiple fields of practice are re-rationalized through informatics. The impact of information on medicine—on conceptions and norms of legitimate and adequate knowledge, practice, training, government, capitalization, and audit of medicine and its bodily objects—has given rise to the familiar binary of progress and denunciation, each mode rendered as obvious. This course will attempt a different way in to thinking about what the clinic is variably becoming via its grounding in information, and by the early 21stcentury, in information’s successor as key figure of plenitude: data. It begins by thinking about the twinned emergence of physiology and nervous function as cybernetic systems, of the forms of critique that emerge against or alongside cybernetics through post-war immunology and a sociology of anti-control, and in this context approaches recent claims about the governance of technologies, systems, and cities that offer something of a return to cybernetics. It turns to the study of particular data/body assemblages, from health apps to clinical audits and quality control to the phenomenology of body and relation under such modes of materialization through data. The third unit turns to possible deformations in our working concepts of population health, by bringing together work on emerging logics of disease control with experimental practices of welfare distribution in a world characterized by an apparent disappearance of mass wage labor: we rethink these literatures in relation to modes of problematization organized around the database. The final fourth of the seminar is open and will depend on the directions that emerge in our readings and debate.