Disrupting the Human. Science in Public Annual Conference

Activity: Participating in or organising an eventConference participation


Knowledge, life & intimacy: being alongside the life sciences of ageing Joanna Latimer, Science & Technology Studies Unit, Department of Sociology, University of York While the factual details of research subjects, dead or living, are usually recorded, as far as they can be, in a variety of lists and ledgers, the entanglements out of which the actual results of the data emerge often remain or become invisible. (Fraser & Puwar 2008:13) Ethnographic STS research about the life sciences relies upon researchers getting inside a domain whose belongings can appear to position them as, methodologically at least, Other. In this paper, I explore the affects and effects of a methodology that deliberately promotes ‘being alongside’ (Latimer 2013) life scientists in STS research. My discussion draws upon my experiments with possibilities for creating biosocial understandings of ageing with life scientists. This research depends upon (some, at the very least) life scientists and I being taken inside, and being affected by, each other’s world-making. I particularly focus on how moments of intimacy are critical to this work of being alongside. ‘Intimacy’ as a quality of relations does not just run counter to professionalism, objectivity and scientific methodologies, but is often constituted as dangerous to their modes of ordering. Within this perspective intimacy has traditionally been relegated to the sexual, the domestic, and the family spheres, and has had no place as a quality of scientific knowledge-making. Indeed, knowledge produced as an effect of intimate relations can be disruptive of the mainstream because it can assert an alternative imaginary to those versions of reality which dominate. Because of this intimacy and affect as critical to the making of professional and scientific worlds, leads to struggles in mundane communities of practice, and to their absence from dominant versions of knowledge-making and science (Kerr 2016; Latimer & Miele 2013). Drawing on Strathern’s (1991) notion that humans do not so much as have relations directly with one another, but rather that relations are generated through attachment and detachment to materials of extension, I explore how intimacy as a quality of relations helps create moments of crossing between myself and life scientists, but in ways that preserve our difference. In particular I show how relations of intimacy are emergent on our attaching and detaching to and from specific kinds of non-humans. I explore how these processes of attachment and detachment as at the same time as they afford each other’s difference, they also facilitate experiments in intimate entanglement, and unexpected struggles in common, particularly struggles over how to keep giving knowledge life.
Period12 Jul 2017
Event typeConference
LocationUnited KingdomShow on map


  • posthumanism
  • ethnography
  • intimacy
  • methodology
  • human-animal relations
  • being alongside