Speaker: Valentina Marcheselli # University of Edinburgh; Speaker: Natalia Nino # University of Edinburgh
19th Mar 2018
15:30 - 17:00
6th Floor Staff Room, Chrystal Macmillan Building
**This seminar has been cancelled due to strike action.**
Natalia Nino: Charting malnutrition: The politics of weight and height measurement during early childhood
In 2006, the World Health Organization (WHO) launched a set of charts for international comparison to measure children’s growth. According to the WHO these charts indicate how children should grow for the best health outcome in contrast to previous charts that indicated how the average child does grow. This shift from a descriptive to a prescriptive approach allowed the WHO to state that all children in the world have the potential to develop within the same range of height and weight; thus, implying that all children could develop in a specific “standardised” way regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status and diet. In 2010, Colombia adopted the new charts after using the American charts developed by the National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS) for thirty years. The aim this research is to understand, from a Science and Technology Studies perspective 1) how the new charts were adopted and integrated into the institutional/health policy level, and within specific health programs targeting early childhood and 2) to understand what kinds of values and ideals regarding children’s bodies and their health status are embedded in the standards and how they are mobilized in terms of design, use, and dissemination once they are set in motion in everyday practice.;
Valentina Marcheselli: Life as we-don’t-know-it and the social construction of unknowns
The search for life somewhere else in the universe is increasingly becoming a priority for space agencies all around the world. From the exploration of portions of the Martian landscape to the recently catalogued exoplanets and the use of Earth’s so called “extreme environments” as space analogues, the search for extra-terrestrial life involves different locales and relies on a number of research designs and practices, usually falling under the label of “astrobiology”.
My PhD research initially focussed on the simple question “what is life in astrobiology?”. Since astrobiology is an interdisciplinary enterprise, I wondered whether life was univocally defined or, on the contrary, made an object of contestation and negotiation. My aim was not to commit to one particular definition of life, but to follow how different definitions were constructed, legitimated, adopted or resisted in discourse and practice.
During the time I spent with astrobiology practitioners, I found out that - despite their very heterogeneous backgrounds - they often agree on the claim that “we don’t know what life is”. In this presentation, I explore some of the unknowns about life that astrobiologists adopt as the very foundation of their emerging discipline and I claim that agreeing on what is unknown is not less of a social process than the creation of knowledge itself.