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.

Picturing Personhood at Princeton University Press

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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»How I Read

desk-bridge

Notes on reading modes sent to a grad class: I wanted to respond to the questions raised during our class regarding what kind of a reading I have been doing over these weeks.  I see it as close (as opposed to general), constructive (as opposed to deconstructive), positive (as opposed to negative), generous (as opposed Continue reading…

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»Sitting, Academic Style

Skeleton At Computer 1

STS as Equipment for Literature: Sitzfleisch Material Semiosis (draft for 4S talk for panel, “Get your theories up and running with lively machines” – comments welcome) the title is a variation on rhetorician Kenneth Burke’s brilliant piece, “Literature as Equipment for Living,” describing the uses of inspirational and self-help books, noting that most people read 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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