“Forever Young”. Biomedical Innovations and Temporality: Sociology of Anti-Ageing Promises

Wednesday, July 16, 2014: 6:00 PM
Room: Booth 66
Oral Presentation
Boris HAURAY , IRIS, INSERM / EHESS, Bobigny, France
According to anti-age advocates, the « elixir of life » has finally been discovered. Hormone replacement therapies, that aim to compensate the natural decline in hormones secretion during the ageing process, stand as one of the major medical strategies developed to address biological ageing. With anti-ageing medicine, biology is no longer destiny but an opportunity. The body is construed as biological mechanism; organisms seem amenable to transformation and optimization.

Since the mid-1980’s, scientific claims have raised hope about a sex steroid – the DHEA – which came to be presented as a “fountain-of-youth” molecule. In spite of the doubts expressed by public authorities and other scientists, DHEA consumption rose all around the world and bolstered the very idea that biomedicine could “cure ageing”. This paper, relying on an analysis of DHEA trajectory in France (1980-2010), will show that understanding the institutionalization of anti-ageing promises – and the challenging of these promises – requires exploring the interactions between different social spaces: media, market, scientific and political spaces. Anti-Ageing Medicine as a new medical offer convey a new conception of the aging body in our society. Aging is no longer seen as a state of life, but a lifelong reversible process, the greatest risk factor for every age-associated pathology. By considering the impact of biomedicine on the conception of old age, this presentation will contribute to the study of the articulation between biomedical innovation and temporality in our society.