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How medical data infrastructures materialize oppression

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Jacob Stegenga.

It’s well-known that medical practices can encode and perpetuate oppressive ideologies. Drawing on in-depth analyses of medical devices such as the spirometer (Braun 2014) and pulse oximeter (Moran-Thomas 2020), recent scholars have argued that ideologies are perpetuated not only by practices, but are also materially embedded in instruments and devices. In other words, medical devices ‘materialize oppression’ (Liao and Carbonell 2022).

In this talk, I pose the following question: how exactly do medical devices materialize oppression? That is, what are the specific mechanisms by which oppression becomes materialized? I offer a preliminary, non-exhaustive taxonomy of materialization mechanisms. And I do so by focusing on new examples and case studies that illustrate these mechanisms at work within medical data infrastructures rather than devices and instruments. I argue that a clearer view of how these mechanisms operate suggests possibilities for building medical technologies that liberate rather than oppress.


This talk is part of the CamPoS (Cambridge Philosophy of Science) seminar series.

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