How has critique and skepticism been integrated or excluded in medicine? This event, part of our Institute's Colloquium 2021–22 series Trusting Science, addresses this question through two short presentations and a discussion between the historian Caitjan Gainty, who runs the Wellcome-funded “Healthy Scepticism” project at King’s College London, and the sociologist Ariane Hanemaayer, author of The Impossible Clinic: A Critical Sociology of Evidence-based Medicine. They address how historical and sociological perspectives on healthcare discontent help to situate the relationship between the role(s) of the skeptic and the preservation of trust in the medical system.
Abstracts and Biographies
Caitjan Gainty: The Long History of Healthcare Discontent: A Short Summary of the 20th Century
At the beginning of the 20th century, skepticism around healthcare was a veritable given, not least because a relatively undifferentiated medical marketplace made dubiety an indispensable tool of the savvy consumer. Over time, this skepticism re-focused into criticisms around issues that, in the US and UK contexts examined here, increasingly reflected medicine’s shifting cultural and political milieu. Tracking the longer trajectories of these changes, and noting especially the increasingly variegated array of doubts, critiques and antagonisms on the part of medicine’s dispossessed and disabused, this talk is a preliminary attempt to think through how the nature of skepticism and the position of the skeptic have changed over time, bringing us to our current complex, conflicted contemporary of healthcare.
Caitjan Gainty is a historian of health and healthcare at King’s College, London. She runs the Healthy Scepticism Project, which seeks to gain new purchase on the history and contemporary of healthcare by taking seriously the perspective of its critics, doubters, activists, dispossessed, and other sceptics, past and present. She has recently finished her first book, on the industrial origins of modern American medicine. Her work has appeared in a range of academic journals as well as in more public-facing media, including the BBC, ABC Radio Australia, Slate, the Washington Post, the Times (London), and the Conversation.
Ariane Hanemaayer: Explaining the Social and Historical Conditions of Healthcare Discontent
By adding insights from the Canadian and UK context, this presentation extends Gainty’s views about the nature of healthcare discontents. I explain the social and historical conditions that lead to the rise and congealment of evidence-based medicine as both a solution to the issues raised in the 20th century and the perpetual return and elimination of particular kinds of criticism in medicine. By demonstrating the role of clinical epidemiology in defining notions of evidence, effectiveness, and efficiency, my presentation compliments the metanarrative of skepticism by suggesting critical approaches to doing healthcare critique.
Ariane Hanemaayer is Associate Professor of Sociology at Brandon University and Visiting Fellow at the Centre for Research in Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities at the University of Cambridge, and Visiting Scholar at Egenis, Centre for the Study of the Life Sciences at University of Exeter. She is author of The Impossible Clinic: A Critical Sociology of Evidence Based Medicine (2019), The Impossible System: A Critical Sociology of Public Health (forthcoming), and editor of AI and Its Discontents: Critiques across the Humanities and Social Sciences (2021). Generally, she uses an adaptation of Michel Foucault’s counter-human method of genealogy to explain how health systems come to define their goals and the conditions that render those objectives attainable, or not.
Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Boltzmannstraße 22, 14195 Berlin, Germany
This event is part of the MPIWG's Institute's Colloquium 2021–22 series "Trusting Science," which seeks to explore this topic from interdisciplinary, transnational, and longue durée perspectives. Learn more about the series here.