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Ethnographic Trans-formations: Cases, Life Histories, and Other Entanglements of Emergent Research
February 1 @ 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm | Humanities 1, Room 210
The Mellon Sawyer Seminar on “Race, Empire, and the Environments of Biomedicine” will welcome, as a residential scholar, Kaushik Sunder Rajan, Professor of Anthropology and of Social Sciences and Co-Director of the Chicago Center for Contemporary Theory at the University of Chicago. Professor Rajan’s first two books focused on the global political economy of the life sciences and biomedicine, with an empirical focus on the United States and India. Biocapital: The Constitution of Postgenomic Life, published by Duke in 2006, is a multi-sited ethnography of genomics and post-genomic drug development marketplaces in the United States and India. His second book, Pharmocracy: Knowledge, Value and Politics in Global Biomedicine (Duke, 2017), elucidates the political economy of global pharmaceuticals as seen from contemporary India.
Professor Rajan will give a talk on his ongoing research project on South Africa, which concerns the ways in which a politics of health in South Africa plays out through the law, consequent to the guarantee of a fundamental right to health in the South African Constitution. This talk is the presentation of an emergent research trajectory. Drawing upon an imaginary of “multisituated” research design and practice, I elaborate the (often contingent and serendipitous) development of my recent work in South Africa, which includes a research project on health and constitutionalism and a teaching- and performance-based collaboration on the politics of breath. I am still wrestling with how to structure both, how they come together and diverge, their different conceptual modalities and political stakes. This includes a consideration of the stakes of legal archival research and life-history interviews in the context of contemporary and emergent research and political situations, as well as of thinking questions of ethnographic form in concert with others who are invested in considerations of literary or musical form. How to think about transformations of research practice in the context of unsettled and unresolved macro-political transformations in uncertain and fragile times? Why might it matter?