Life of the Metabolism: An Experimental Inquiry into Mobility (<Special Theme>Hybrid Bodies)
Auther: Gergely Mohacsi
Keywords: diabetes, embodiment, epidemiology, genetic research, mobility, Japan
In the past decade and a half, anthropology, along with other human sciences, seems at last to have opened up its once-rigid theoretical frameworks and methodological toolkits to embrace the concept of life-not as something that divides social and natural phenomena, but rather as something that highlights how they relate to and include each other in practice. Interestingly enough, this relatively new concept of life has been emerging from research activities that follow the movement of living objects: genes between laboratories and regulatory agencies, mushrooms between distant mountains and global markets, and organs between living bodies, to mention just a few. In such moves, life becomes a target of and a ground for comparison. Lives and life forms are constantly compared (metrically, culturally and experientially), calling for further research that explores the relation between comparative practices and the traveling objects of medicine and the life sciences in general.
This paper explores the consequences of such mobility by drawing on current ideas of translation and hybridity within science and technology studies (STS) and anthropology. How does the body of the diabetic patient-from (thrifty) genes to fat bellies-become an experimental site of technological and social innovation in contemporary Japan? What is at stake when those bodies move across different locations and scales in the comparative practices of epidemiology and genetic research? These are the questions I pursue through two ethnographic vignettes of diabetes research, which together show the fluidity between different values and different ways of ordering reality.
* The full English abstract is available at the end of the PDF file.
Gergely Mohacsi, "Life of the Metabolism", contributed by Yoko Taguchi, STS Infrastructures, Platform for Experimental Collaborative Ethnography, last modified 12 August 2018, accessed 25 January 2022.