Picturing Personhood: Brain Scans and Biomedical Identity

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By showing us the human brain at work, PET (positron emission tomography) scans are subtly–and sometimes not so subtly–transforming how we think about our minds. Picturing Personhood follows this remarkable and expensive technology from the laboratory into the world and back. It examines how PET scans are created and how they are being called on to answer myriad questions with far-reaching implications: Is depression an observable brain disease? Are criminals insane? Do men and women think differently? Is rationality a function of the brain?

Based on interviews, media analysis, and participant observation at research labs and conferences, Joseph Dumit analyzes how assumptions designed into and read out of the experimental process reinforce specific notions about human nature. Such assumptions can enter the process at any turn, from selecting subjects and mathematical models to deciding which images to publish and how to color them. Once they leave the laboratory, PET scans shape social debates, influence courtroom outcomes, and have positive and negative consequences for people suffering mental illness. Dumit follows this complex story, demonstrating how brain scans, as scientific objects, contribute to our increasing social dependence on scientific authority.

The first book to examine the cultural ramifications of brain-imaging technology, Picturing Personhood is an unprecedented study that will influence both cultural studies and the growing field of science and technology studies.

Series: In-Formation

(Reviewed in American Anthropologist; Annual Review of Anthropology; Bulletin of the History of Medicine; Current Anthropology; Lancet Neurology; Medical Anthropology Quarterly; Science; Science, Technology & Human Values; Theory & Psychology).

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2004

Dumit, Joseph. 2004. Picturing Personhood: Brain Scans and Biomedical Identity, Princeton University Press.

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»Playing Truths

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Logics of Seeking and the Persistence of the New Age File Here  

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»WRITING THE IMPLOSION: Teaching the World One Thing at a Time

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This has been my mainstay form of doing and thinking ethnographically a connected and disconnected world. A reading of Gilles Deleuze’s Cinema 2 in dialogue with Donna Haraway’s works and methods. Working through the former helps me unpack the process of Haraway’s inquisitive “implosion” method and some of its aims better. I describe this as Continue reading…

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»Biomedicine as Culture

Biomedicine as Culture

Co-edited with Regula Burri in 2008. Biomedicine as Culture: Instrumental Practices, Technoscientific Knowledge, and New Modes of Life (Routledge Studies in Science, Technology and Society), best described through contents: Introduction REGULA VALÉRIE BURRI AND JOSEPH DUMIT PART I Social and cultural studies of biomedicine 1 Medicalizing culture(s) or culturalizing medicine(s) STEFAN BECK 2 Metaphors of medicine Continue reading…

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