“Can the Lab-Rats Speak?”: Speculations on the Constitution of the Experimental Subject.

Our next Culpeper Seminar Series talk will be on Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at Laurel Heights in Conference Room 474 from 3:30 – 5:00 pm.
Kaushik Sunder Rajan, PhD, Associate Professor of Anthropology & of Social Sciences, University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois, will give a paper titled “Can the lab rat speak? Speculations on the constitution of the experimental subject in India”.
imagesKaushik Sunder Rajan provided this abstract for his upcoming, exciting talk: “What I hope to present is less a paper and more a wrestle with this question, in a contemporary political moment when the “unethical clinical trial” has become a scandal and a locus of political mobilization in India. Who, or what, is being mobilized in this context? In whose name? What politics of representation, mediation and subjectivity does this entail, and how does it articulate with or resist the global capitalist appropriation of bioavailable bodies in the cause of surplus value generation? How might philosophical and anthropological notions of subjectivity come to be at stake in these moments?
I do not have answers to any of these questions. Rather, what I wish to work through are different modalities of subject-constitution that operate in relation to clinical trials in India. These include, in addition to the constitution of the always already bioavailable subject, the liberal rational subject of biomedical ethics; the vulnerable exploited subject that is the concern of media activism and advocacy; and the historically dispossessed subject of global industrial capitalisms. Where does the typically anthropological project of capturing the lived experience of subjectivity reside in relation to these various subject-constitutions? In many ways, these speculations are an engagement with, and a restatement of, Gayatri Spivak’s provocation that the subaltern cannot speak but most be spoken for. I am interested in tracing and working through the structural conditions that make it impossible to capture experimental subjectivity in these contexts as, simply, pure voice and agency. I want to consider the consequences of this impossibility for anthropological conceptualizations of the subject, and for praxiological critiques of biocapital”.

Kaushik Sunder Rajan was initially trained as a biologist, obtained his PhD in the History and Social Studies of Science and Technology, and works on the anthropology of science, technology and medicine. His work has focused on a number of interrelated events and emergences: firstly, the increased corporatization of life science research; secondly, the emergence of new technologies and epistemologies within the life sciences, such as, significantly, genomics; and thirdly, the fact that these technoscientific and market emergences were not simply occurring in the United States, but rather globally. His book, Biocapital: The Constitution of Post-Genomic Life, captures a flavor of these emergences.

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Last modified: April 19, 2013