Chronic Living Keynote Speakers and abstracts


Aditya Bharadwaj, Anthropology and Sociology, Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies




The Chronic Life of Infertility 

The notion of infertility is pregnant with biosocial inflections that coproduce reproductive disruption as a chronic failure. As such, the paper takes as its ethnographic point of departure South Asian lives "infected" with the stigma of infertility. In doing so it re-examines cultural prejudice and political apathy as instantiating the 'chronic life of infertility'. The paper shows how chronic stigma and chronic infertility are better understood as structural afflictions. It concludes that chronicity is seldom embedded in the temporality of an affliction, but rather always in its cultural reception. 

Jeannette Pols, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, University of Amsterdam




Living with Chronic Disease: Learning from Specificities  

Why is the study of care practices and everyday lives with chronic disease so difficult? And why is it so hard for the studies that are being done, to inform clinical and everyday life practices? The beginning of an answer, I argue in this talk, lies in the dominant knowledge traditions that we have to study health care and to guard its goodness: epidemiology and bioethics. Epidemiological studies are crafted by aggregating lots of individual data, with the aim of generalising what is shared within populations; bioethics is geared towards formulating universal principles and norms that should guide judgement everywhere. Care in practice, meanwhile, is about the specificities of this treatment and these technologies that aim to solve particular problems for this patient. Does this mean knowledge about care needs to stay within local clinical traditions and day to day struggles of individuals with chronic disease? In the talk I unravel what ‘specificities’ are, how we may create knowledge about them, how we may relate to the ‘good’ of care practices, and what this implies for the transportation of knowledge about specificities. I will use examples from ethnographic studies to make his less abstract than it sounds. 

Nikolas Rose, Department of Global Health & Social Medicine, King’s College London



Chronic Stress: Mental Health in Adversity 

In this talk I will outline a neurosocial approach to understanding the costs to bodies and souls of living chronically in and with adversity, arguing for the need to develop and deepen the critical friendship between life scientists and social scientists, and argue for the need to develop a positive biopolitics which has the maximisation of vitality at its heart. 

Susan Reynolds Whyte, Department of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen



Positively Chronic: Conditions of Living with HIV 

With massive funding for treatment programmes in African countries, HIV shifted from death sentence to life sentence. More and more people are ‘living positively’ on antiretroviral therapy. But ‘positive living’ is not only about adherence to guidelines and the punctuated time of swallowing tablets and keeping appointments. Varied social and economic conditions shape the overall life projects in which people engage; chronic living is about how these broader concerns combine with biomedical programmes in people’s lives. Gender is one of these essential social conditions, particularly relevant in Uganda where life chances differ strongly for men and women. Moreover, HIV is twice as prevalent among women. Starting with the life concerns of women living with treatment, I will highlight some contingencies of being positively chronic at this point in Ugandan history. 

Joe Dumit, Department of Anthropology, University of California Davis



Chronic Inequalities: COVID Life in the USA 

The existing massive and chronic inequality of health outcomes that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated continues to be noticed and in many cases exploited in the disUnited States of America. Racism and other structural determinants of health are talked about more openly in medical journals, and at the same time, many corporate strategies magnify these same determinants including precarity in housing, food, water and hospitals. Drawn from teaching large anthropology classes on chronic illness and chronic treatments during the pandemic, this presentation will work with analyses of alterlife, expendability, capitalism and austerity to diagram ongoing forms of chronic living.  



Chronic Living is the final conference of the research project “The Vitality of Disease – Quality of Life in the Making” funded by the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s
Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement 63927 – VITAL).


ORGANIZER: University of Copenhagen, The Faculty of Social Science - Øster Farimagsgade 5 - Copenhagen K -