This talk discusses what the history of ageism can tell us about epistemic injustice in medicine. When the term “age-ism” entered the medical debate in the late 1960s, it was presented as a cause for the lack of funding for medical research on ageing. Nowadays, the WHO defines ageism as “an insidious practice which has harmful effects on the health of older adults.” However, ageism not only causes negative medical impacts, but medical research and practice can also contribute to ageism. I will exemplify the complicated relationship between ageism and medicine with respect to the history of an age-related disease, Alzheimer’s disease. My talk closes with reflections on how this perspective raises questions about current employments of age for the stratification of risk groups in present-day medicine in general and for anti-Corona measures in particular.
Centering Disability in a Pandemic
Worldwide, more than one billion people live with disabilities. In the middle of a pandemic, this heterogenous group has never been more vulnerable, and paradoxically, they have never been more invisible. Not only are people with disabilities dying in disproportionately large numbers relative to non-disabled people, COVID-19 is also likely to swell the ranks of the disabled, as people who survive are often left with debilitating, long-term illnesses. Yet, this population is comparatively invisible in scholarship on COVID-19, especially relative to race and age. In this talk, I will make an argument for centering disability in our understanding of the pandemic, using examples from the intersections of the histories of medicine, history of public health, and disability studies.
Lara Keuck’s research lies at the intersection of history of science and philosophy of medicine. She holds a Branco Weiss Fellowship of ETH Zurich and leads a junior research group at Humboldt University Berlin on “Learning from Alzheimer’s Disease: A History of Biomedical Models of Mental Illness.” In 2021, she will move to the MPIWG to start a new Max Planck Research Group on “Practices of Validation in the Biomedical Sciences.”
Photograph: Junge Akademie/Peter Hinsel
Aparna Nair is currently Assistant Professor at the History of Science department in the University of Oklahoma. Her work examines the relationship between disability and colonialism in British India; the histories of public health (quarantine/vaccination) in India; epilepsy, gender and personhood in modern south India, as well as the representations of disability and chronic illness (especially epilepsy) in popular culture. She is currently putting the finishing touches on her manuscript, titled Fungible Bodies: Disability Histories of British India, 1850–1950, for the University of Illinois Press' Disability History Series.
Crisis and Capacity: Perspectives in the Humanities and Social Sciences
Months have passed since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. People have experienced the effects of the virus’ rapid global spread: the politicization of medicine, worldwide shortages of and bidding wars for protective equipment, disputes and uneven public health messaging about prevention and treatments, disproportionate distributions of health risks in populations, and mass mortality. While many issues related to the Covid-19 outbreak are dealt with by scientists and health practitioners—such as the search for treatments and cures—other concerns command the expertise of scholars in the humanities and social sciences.
Developing from the MPIWG's History of Science ON CALL video project, the Institute’s Colloquium 2020/21 therefore facilitates conversations around how humanities and social sciences scholars might deliberately or inadvertently form a long view of critical contemporary issues, aiming to:
Normalize reflexive intellectual discussions about challenging topics about inequalities such as race or gender
Connect to other dialogues within and beyond Berlin about plural histories and sociologies of crises
Ultimately, the program seeks to bring to the fore various insights into local, regional, and international cooperation and academic work prompted by Covid-19.