The COVID-19 pandemic has brought into relief the porousness of our bodies, and the importance of pathogenic substances passed between them every day. Meanwhile the global quest for vaccines and treatments relies on further circulations of vital matter, from DNA samples to convalescent plasma. In short, both the disease’s spread and its cure, depend on how we manage and monitor global circulations of vital (and potentially viral) matter. And yet, these vital substances do not circulate in a vacuum: as the pandemic lays bare, the socially marginalised are more susceptible to viral infections and ensuing deaths, a pattern exacerbated in the Global South with limited infrastructural capacity for testing and utilising vital matter.
Despite the rising stakes of managing vital matter, there has not been any systematic cross-disciplinary effort to understand how vital circulations intersect with social boundaries and hierarchies. This project brings together White Rose researchers and external partners and academics to develop ‘vital circulations’ as a new conceptual framework to advance a comparative global understanding of the social dynamics surrounding vital matter. It will consolidate social scientific and interdisciplinary research along the three axes, each exploring one of the three main types of vital matter and its respective mode of circulation:
- Infectious Pathways: pathogens and contagion
- Tissue Donations: tissues and reciprocity
- Databased Circulations: genes and inheritance