Social Plasticity and Pharmaceuticalisation

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 09:00
Location: Hörsaal 34 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Johanne COLLIN, Faculty of pharmacy, University of Montreal, Montreal, QC, Canada
This paper discuss, through a series of specific examples (hypertension, suppression of menstruations, smart drugs), the manner in which medications play a significant role in three central processes of contemporary social dynamics: medicalisation, molecularisation and biosocialisation. It highlights the ways in which they operate to transform the social and medical gaze toward what is normal and pathological, natural and artificial, and the processes of inclusion and exclusion.  The first transformation concerns medicalisation, as a shift in the boundaries between the normal and the pathological. Through molecularisation,  the blurring of boundaries occurs between living and non-living organisms, and by extension, between what is considered as natural from what is perceived as artificial. Through biosocialisation, pharmaceuticals would play a significant role in the constitution of a techno-scientific identity fashioned by drug-taking as something to either embrace or reject. Hence, central to this conceptualization is the assumption that, through medicalisation, molecularisation, and biosocialisation, the same basic mechanism is at work:  that of an evolving polarity between two antinomic categories, the positions of which are constantly being redefined by the various uses of drugs, among other social forces. By examining the question from this angle, I seek to understand how these polarities evolve and the role pharmaceutical drugs play in the process. I will end by proposing three core characteristics of pharmaceuticals that distinguish them from other medical technologies, and that help explain their relative omnipresence in contemporary western societies.