News Archive 2009-2018

Symposium: Big Pharma, Big Medicine and Technoscience Archives

Susan Bell

Susan Bell opens the proceedings of Big Pharma, Big Medicine and Technoscience on Sept. 26

On Sept. 26-27 Bowdoin hosted a symposium on the pharmaceutical industry and modern dynamics of medicine and medical research. Big Pharma, Big Medicine and Technoscience: Investigating Intersections in the Twenty-First Century focused on the global dynamics of medicalization, a field involving defining problems in medical terms and treating them with medical interventions.

“The field is at a critical juncture,” said visiting speaker Anne Figert of Loyola University in Chicago. “This symposium provides the occasion for moving forward.” Figert’s presentation explored the increase in use of pharmaceuticals for treating medical problems, and how this trend can marginalize other public health approaches.

Led by A. Myrick Freeman Professor of Social Sciences Susan Bell, chair of the sociology and anthropology department at Bowdoin, the symposium also encompassed topics such as global rights to medical drugs, the roles of gender and race in medicine, influences of the Human Genome Project, and social determinants of health.

The symposium provided a new perspective on the topic for students in Bell’s fall course on big pharma, big medicine, and technoscience. “We had to do readings beforehand, and I liked listening to different people give lectures not necessarily on what we read, but on the same topic,” Madeline Rex ’14 said. “It was really interesting to see scholars in real life.”

The two-day event was the product of collaboration between the Office of the Dean for Academic Affairs and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology. It was the first in a series of four symposia led by Bowdoin faculty this fall, assembling experts from near and far to exchange ideas about topics spanning a wide range of disciplines including science, art, history, and sociology.