Events update

Vital Circulations:Bodies and Microbes

The Vital Circulations Network has organized a few events so far. We had our inception event for the network on 28th June, 2021 (you can find some reflections and a few provocations arising from this event from our blog) and two meetings over the latter half of 2021, before our well received symposium Vital Circulations – Biomes, Bodies and Buildings took place on 6th January 6, 2022. This symposium was the first one among a series of three (the second one will be on Tissue Donations: tissues and reciprocity and the third one will be about Databased Circulations: genes and inheritance), so please keep an eye out for updates about our events to come! We will soon post some reflections about the symposium on 6th January 6, 2022, but I wanted to briefly reflect on the two meetings we had over the later half of 2021.

In the meeting which took place on 28th July, we heard from Professor Rory O’ Connor on disability, its imagination versus reality from a medical practitioner’s perspective. Rory, based on the context of his medical practice, commented on the insufficiency of the medical model of disability and some concerns about access. In particular, he talked about some instances in the medical setting where access to test/donation facilities are restricted due to lack of consideration for people living with impairments.

This discussion evokes a social model of disability, and raises questions about how exactly to mobilize this in the medical setting. In the social model of disability, “disability” is due to the “the interaction between people living with impairments and an environment filled with physical, attitudinal, communication and social barriers”. Therefore, infrastructure in terms of the physical, attitudinal, communication ad social environments should adapt to the needs of people with impairment so as to enable their participation in society and access to resources.

In the second meeting, which took place on 22 October 2021, we heard from Professor James Stark on a completely different topic. We went back in history to look at the portrayal of microbe in public communications in history, its changes and stabilisation across different periods and the important questions this raises. We were presented with some intriguing and colourful visualisations throughout history. In those visual depictions, we saw how germs are portrayed as other, invader and alien. And in the depiction of germs, the social imaginaries creep in, in terms of race, gender and class and so on. In such a way, those representations are sites where we can look closer in terms the changing relations between humans and microbes, as well as broader social concerns.

The two meetings, from different perspectives, point to different inequalities in vital circulations. For me, they both speak to the current pandemic in intimate ways. The pandemic has perhaps forced many people, for the first time, to face the lived reality of not being able to move freely and do things as they wish – perhaps just like the world people with impairments face on a daily basis, a world without appropriate infrastructure for them to thrive. Things like working from home, online meetings and conferences perhaps can be incorporated in a post-pandemic world to give better access. On the other hand, our depictions of the virus, its different variants are not just biological depictions void of social imageries; they often can be biases and full of process of othering – I speak from the perspective of a Chinese person who has faced racism because of coronavirus.

(posted by Lijiaozi Cheng)

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