Biologisation of the social or new forms of bio sociality?

Biologisation of the social or new forms of bio sociality? The shifting boundaries between nature and society and their consequences for daily routines and practices, Research Project A2 of Research Program 536 'Reflexive Modernization'

The behavioral practices of individuals living in modern societies are steered by the reference to distinctions like illness/health, therapy/enhancement, body/mind, natural/artificial; these concepts shape people's daily routines in fields like health, images of and the relationship with one's body as well as (health) education. However, it seems that current medicalization trends and related technological progress question these distinctions that are deeply embedded in our everyday routines. Hence, project A2 focuses on the shifting boundaries between health and illness, body and mind, therapy and enhancement, the natural and the artificial, or to put it more abstractly: between "nature" and "society". With an emphasis on the aspects of power, knowledge and inequality, our research focus is mostly dedicated to the discursive as well as to material forms and processses related to the above-mentioned boundary shift. Moreover, we examine their interaction with the emerging practices and interpretative frames that shape people's ordinary routines. Four case-studies (ADHS : attention deficit hyperactivity syndrome; aesthetic surgery; genetic diagnosis & anti-aging) have been selected to examine four distinctive – although interrelated – dynamics determining the processes of boundary shaping currently underway: i.e. medicalization, the pluralization of therapies, the "detemporalization" of illness and the enhancement of the human body. A central question is whether and why a possible "biologization of the social" (Paul Rabinow) – a trend many scholars recognize – might bring about new forms of power and domination as well as social inequality. Promoting and establishing norms for the "perfect body", unlimited performance, inconspicuous behavior (normalization) or potential genetic discrimination are just a few prominent examples of such developments. In contrast with the question of domination posed before, we will also be exploring whether or not boundary work processes may present options for new forms of bio-sociality, i.e. social communities and collective forms of interest articulation based upon a nature that is both culturally reflected and designed.