Society for Medical Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Abstract: “Instinct,” “behavior,” “impulse,” “drive,” “habit,” “addiction.” Medicine has an expansive lexicon to conceptualize how and why humans act, much of which is centered upon biologically determinant mechanisms of experience. Additionally, humans are described as suffering from cognitive “impairments” and “decline,” which localize sociality in the changing matter of the brain and confine development and disability to inevitable, linear, and determinate biological conditions. In this panel, we bring together anthropologists engaged in debates that query our “thinking” about thinking, to rework the cognitive bias in and out of biomedicine. Such approaches might include ethnographies of patients and practitioners that explore the relations between brains, bodies, and environments; they may also include engagements with individuals and communities invested in disrupting cognitive biases outside of medicalized contexts. Across the cases, we hope to highlight experimental and experiential situations that help to reimagine the brain as the site of cognition and neuroreductive approaches to action. In borrowing “imagination” to do this work, we want to highlight how engagements with thinking about thinking can usefully undo neuro- and psy- orthodoxies; can we reclaim and reterritorialize the imaginative field of thought and cognition through ethnographic engagements with alternative, creative, and experimental situations? We hope to encourage a renewed anthropological interest in the socio-material shaping of action in order to usefully interfere with existing models of body-environment interactions. The panel aspires to push considerations of responsibility, obligation, and care away from classifications of “good” and “bad,” “social” and “anti-social,” “human” and “animal,” and towards more generative ways of apprehending social action and relations.