Conference Social Sciences & Medical Innovation 2019

4th Biannual Conference Social Sciences & Health Innovations: Multiplicities organised as a collaborative endeavor between Maastricht University (the Netherlands), Tomsk State University (the Russian Federation), Siberian State Medical University (the Russian Federation) and European University at Saint-Petersburg (the Russian Federation).

This year, the conference invites participants to discuss the notion of multiplicity and to engage with a diverse range of multiplicities that are too often bracketed in attempts to understand and address health problems and health innovations. How can multiplicity be conceptualized? How can concepts of multiplicity inspire productive ways of dealing with health problems? How can we account for and engage with the complexes of many species living together? How can novel health technologies relate to the multiple realities where diseases are practiced differently?

Currently, we can observe a problematic tendency: efforts to innovate for health oftenavoid engaging with multiplicity. First, humans are often singled out as being exceptional among other species, with everything else viewed as a risk of threat to human health. Phenomena like mutual dependence and living together are not very well understood, despite that any single organism is always embedded in networks of ecological interactions.

Second, the human body(as well as a patient) is expected to be universal. Yet, scholars like Margaret Lock and Maurizio Meloni have highlighted biosocial processes that over time produce what has been called ‘local biologies’.

Third, diseases are often conceived as stable, discrete, and pre-given entities. Yet, the work of John Law and Vicky Singleton, among others, points to the contrary. They demonstrated, for example, that foot and mouth disease was enacted as many different things during an outbreak in Britain: in veterinary practice it was symptoms like blisters and fever; in the virological laboratory it was the antibodies binding to specific antigens, and in epidemiological research it was a condition that spreads through a susceptible population.

Finally, evidence of what works tends to be assessed in terms of one clear hierarchy based on statistical norms regarding what counts as reliable knowledge. However, scholars like Vololona Rabeharisoa, Tiago Moreira, and Madeleine Akrich have discussed the appropriateness of different kinds of evidence for different kinds of questions and the evidentiary value of experiences of living with health conditions.

The aim of the conference is to inspire and provide support for making a difference in the world of multiplicities. This conference is meant to serve as a platform to facilitate the dialogue between the social and biomedical scientists, civil society organizations and patient organizations, public health professionals and policy makers. As well, this conference aims to support the dialogue between scholars and practitioners working in the field of health innovations in the post-Soviet region and globally.