Sociology of Science Society of Japan – 6th Annual Meeting

Last weekend, I attended the 6th annual meeting of the Sociology of Science Society of Japan, held at Hongo Campus of the University of Tokyo. Because I had another commitment on the first day and was not able to take part in the entire meeting unfortunately, I did not present my work this time but instead had an honour of chairing a session on medical sociology / sociology of health and illness on the second day.

So, here I give my observation on the four talks presented in the session, rather than reporting their details as I assume some of them are still work-in-progress and unpublished. All the talks were intellectually stimulating, and I would like to thank the speakers, Prof. Hiroshi Yamanaka (Osaka Univ.), Ms. Sawako Shinomiya (independent), Ms. Natsuko Nojima (JSPS), and Prof. Masahiro Sato (Saitama Univ.). Based on the abstracts, I categorized their talks in two sub-groups; first, the talks on ‘the models of disease and disability’ and second, those on ‘social representations of a disease.’ Although I am not sure if that was the right move on my side, as the talks made clear that these two topics are closely related, they presented some important issues in undertaking studies of medical sociology.

The talks by Prof. Yamanaka and Ms. Shinomiya both explored the ways in which medical and social understandings of disease/disability co-exist in our society: they do not just ‘co-exist’ but together legitimize and hence enable implementation of public health/social welfare policies for the disease/disability concerned. In the cases examined in the talks, social understanding serves to problematize the circumstances of the diseased or the disabled, whereas medical one endorses the solutions proposed. And their work is necessarily locally specific. An important question here is how guidelines of international organizations, such as the World Health Organization, ‘interact with,’ rather than ‘inform,’ such localized work of public health/social welfare policies. To answer this question, a historical analysis and/or an international comparison may be needed.

The talks of Ms. Nojima and Prof. Sato then examined media representations of a disease, while the former took a sociological approach and the latter a historical one. Studies of representation often focuses on the questions of ‘how’ – how a disease is presented – and ‘by whom’ – who was considered to have legitimate knowledge to present it. But the both talks indicated that the question of ‘for what’ is equally important, that is, what social function the representation in mass media of a disease seldom known to the public is supposed to serve. It may explain away a social problem as ‘a natural phenomenon,’ call for state intervention to solve it, or open up a social space where new actors can legitimately enter. To explore this question of ‘for what’, the representation of a disease has to be situated in its specific context – specific in terms of both geographical and temporal.

I really enjoyed the talks and learned a lot from them. Once again, I thank the speakers for their stimulating talk.

Another thing I found particularly interesting was that there seems growing interest in actor-network theory and the work of Bruno Latour in Japan. A group of young sociologists are now working to (re-)evaluate the significance of Latour in sociology. I am keen to know more about their work and see if they would finally make actor-network theory a sociological theory.

 

– 日本語(Japanese ver.) –

先週末、東京大学本郷キャンパスで開催された科学社会学会の第6回年次大会に参加してきました。残念ながら土曜日は他の用事があったため、今年は部分参加となってしまい、自分の研究発表はできませんでしたが、2日目にあった医学社会学のセッションでは、僭越ながら司会を務めさせていただきました。

セッションでは4つの報告がありましたが、ここではその詳細を解説するよりも、全体を通じての考察を述べようと思います。発表者は大阪大学の山中浩司先生、東京大学で修士号を取得し現在は民間企業でお仕事をされている篠宮紗和子さん、学振PDの野島那津子さん、そして、埼玉大学の佐藤雅浩先生でした。4つの報告の中でも、山中先生と篠宮さんのご発表は疾患や障害を理解するモデルについて、野島さんと佐藤先生のご発表は具体的な疾患のメディアでの表象についてと、少しテーマが違って感じたので当日は二つのグループに分けて議論をしたのですが、結果的にはつながりを感じることができる4つのご報告だった気がしています。

このセッションを通じて私が特に興味を抱いたのは2つの点です。まず、「国際的な指針とローカルな疾患や障害の理解の関係」についてで、どのようなプロセスで疾患や障害が公衆衛生あるいは社会福祉政策の対象とすべき課題として認識されるようになるのか、そして、それがどのような形で運用可能な政策として実践されるのかについて考える時に、国際的な指針が異なるローカルをつなぐ役割を果たしていることを認識する必要があるのかなということです。これについては掘り下げていくには歴史的考察や、国際比較分析といった手法が求められるように思います。もう一つは、疾患がメディアの中で「消費」されるという点です。誰によって、どのように表象されるのかといった疑問だけでなく、その表象が社会にとってどのような役割を果たすのかという疑問も同様に重要であると感じました。

4つのご報告がそれぞれに自分の研究について考えるきっかけを与えてくれたように思います。発表者の皆様には改めて感謝いたします。また、このセッションの後に続いたアクターネットワーク理論(ANT)をテーマとしたセッションも興味深いものでした。ANTは理論ではなく、記述方法であるといったことも言われていますが、若手研究者を中心としたグループがANTの社会学における位置づけを(再)検討しているようです。今後の展開に注目してみたいと思っています。

(文章の内容は上記英文となるべく揃えていますが、同一ではありません。ご注意下さい。)

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