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Archive for June, 2013

Sunday, June 30th, 2013

Dickson D. Despommier on What We Can Learn from Parasites

“Despite all our efforts, the parasites still have the upper hand. The question is: Do we have to sit there and take it like all the other hapless host species on our planet? Or can we use our ingenuity and creativity to find ways of taking advantage of their molecular survival tactics?”—Dickson D. Despommier

People, Parasites, and Plowshares, Dickson DespommierIn the following excerpt from the preface to People, Parasites, and Plowshares: Learning From Our Body’s Most Terrifying Invaders, Dickson Despommier describes the dangers of parasites as well as why our struggle to learn more about them is so important:

Hollywood has picked up on the parasite theme from time to time. Alien is one of my all-time favorite examples of this. Everyone who has seen it remembers the showstopper: it comes early on in the film, when the “embryo” of the beast, in a torrent of blood and guts, bursts right out of the chest of John Hurt, then slithers off and raises havoc with the crew of that hapless spaceship. No matter how many times I’ve seen it, that “birthing” scene always freaks me out. But that was science fiction, and with some obvious inconsistencies in the parasitic life cycle, I might add. Trust me, the lives of real parasites are far more riveting.

Ever since we became a species, some 200,000 years ago, parasites have been responsible for untold amounts of human suffering and countless deaths. For instance, some experts believe that Homo sapi­ens almost became extinct as the result of epidemics caused by malaria that coincided with a time when our numbers were perhaps as low as 400,000 individuals. The worst part is that this killer is still with us. In just over the past one hundred years, as many people have died from malaria worldwide as now live in the United States. While the number of people dying from this one parasite is high, consider the fact that ma­laria in all its forms (there are four) infects some two billion individuals each year. This reduces the mortality rate to around 1 percent, making this group of infectious agents some of the most successful parasites on the planet. There are other evolutionary winners out there, too. For example, the number of humans currently infected with intestinal hel­minths (worms) is also in the billions. Tragically, what this really means is that there are a lot of people harboring more than one parasite….

Despite all our efforts, the parasites still have the upper hand. The question is: Do we have to sit there and take it like all the other hapless host species on our planet? Or can we use our ingenuity and creativity to find ways of taking advantage of their molecular survival tactics? That is one of the main themes of this book. I am aware of many pieces of half-finished research on parasites that, if developed further, could benefit our species in some totally unexpected ways: breakthrough treatments of those suffering from type 1 diabetes, for example, or the successful transplantation of organs obtained from nonhuman animal sources, such as pigs. I also highlight the amazing ways in which these body snatchers succeed in carrying out their complex lives at our expense.

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Friday, June 28th, 2013

University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best posts from the blogs of academic publishers! As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments.

The Supreme Court decisions on Wednesday ruling the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 unconstitutional made big headlines in the academic publishing blogosphere this week. At the OUPblog, Robert J. Hume looks at where same-sex marriage goes from here. Beacon Broadside featured an excerpt from What is Marriage For?, in which E. J. Graff examines the point of marriage, and how private and public definitions of marriage often collide. Finally, at From the Square, the blog of NYU Press, Suzanna Danuta Walters looks at the language of some of the news cycle’s talking heads and explains her frustration at the “centrality of marriage to the gay rights movement.”

Monday was another important day at the Supreme Court, as the justices came to a decision on Fisher v. University of Texas. At the JHU Press Blog, Michael A. Olivas has a guest post examining the Fisher case from a number of different angles.

Last week and this past weekend were an important time for academic presses, of course, because of the 2013 AAUP annual meeting. This week, This Side of the Pond, the blog of Cambridge University Press, has a post detailing why AAUP 2013 was a success, and looking at some of the most important questions brought up at the meeting.

How can professors get publicity for books that are important, but scholarly? That’s the question asked and answered by Michael Chwe in a guest post on the Princeton University Press Blog. Chwe uses the example of his recently published book to walk readers through the publicity process from the point of view of an author and scholar.

Silvio Berlusconi has recently been sentenced to “seven years in prison and permanent exclusion from public office.” At North Philly Notes, the blog of Temple University Press, John Agnew looks at Berlusconi’s fall and discusses what it will mean for Italian politics and society.

Canada, Calgary in particular, has been struck by massive floods in 2013. At the McGill-Queen’s University Press blog, Matthew Evenden discusses the history of the Bow River and Calgary, and looks at the floods this year in the context of other floods in the past.

June 26th was the birthday of Peter Sloterdijk, the German philosopher, critic, and public intellectual (and Columbia University Press author). At the MIT Press blog, Marc Lowenthal has a brief guest post in honor of Sloterdijk’s birthday.

At the University of Virginia Press blog, Jeffrey Greene has a fascinating guest post in which he details his trip to the mountains in Poland, where he spent his time foraging for wild edibles.

Finally, we’ll end this week’s Roundup with a post from the Texas A&M University Press blog by William C. Latham, Jr. In his post, Latham looks back at the end of the Korean War, which took place on June 27th, 1953.

Thanks again for reading this week’s roundup! Have a great weekend, and leave any thoughts in the comments!

Friday, June 28th, 2013

An Interview with Gyorgy Scrinis

Nutritionism, Gyorgy Scrinis Today, the final day of our book giveaway for Gyorgy Scrinis’s Nutritionism:The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice, we have an interview with Dr. Scrinis in which he discusses the limitations of nutritionism, the “nutritional gaze,” and how to correct popular conceptions of nutrition.

How does margarine exemplify the limitations of nutritionism?

Margarine is one of the few highly processed foods that many nutrition experts have promoted—and in some cases continue to promote—as a healthy food, or at least as healthier than butter. It illustrates their willingness to believe in the truth of their nutritional hypotheses, to the point where this overrides other ways of evaluating food quality, but also overrides the sensual and cultural significance of butter. Margarine manufacturers worked this out decades ago, and have refined the art of nutritionally engineering their products so as seduce those nutrition experts in awe of polyunsaturated fats, reduced fat foods, omega-3 fats, and cholesterol-lowering plant sterols.

What are the political consequences of nutritionism?

One of the ideological functions of nutritionism is that it is so faithfully serves the interests of the food industry. Nutritionism provides the rationale for the production of nutritional commodities, such as nutrient-fortified food products. But it also helps to construct the types of subjects—nutriticentric subjects and consumers—that desire and demand these nutritional commodities.
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Thursday, June 27th, 2013

Gyorgy Scrinis on Alternatives to Nutritionism

“Nutrition experts can either lead or be led by the burgeoning food-quality movement and can choose to play a key role in developing food-quality literacy and food policies that promote and pro­tect the quality of our food.”—Gyorgy Scrinis

Nutritionism, Gyorgy ScrinisIn the concluding chapter to Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice, Gyorgy Scrinis argues for how we can create alternative and better ways of interpreting and understanding the real nutritional value of the food we eat:

Constructing alternatives to nutritionism ultimately requires more than carrying out and interpreting nutrition science differently, develop­ing alternative dietary guidelines, or adopting personal strategies for navi­gating the nutriscape. Given food corporations’ central role in perpetuating the ideology of nutritionism, their level of influence over government policies and scientific research, and their ability to nutritionally market their products, the power of these corporations must also be addressed. Limiting or removing the food industry’s ability to use nutrient and health claims is an important step, as this is the primary means through which nutritional knowledge is now disseminated to the public, as well as a pri­mary strategy for marketing highly processed foods. Limiting industry influence over the governments’ dietary guidelines and food regulations is also essential if those guidelines and regulations are to be in the interests of public health, social equity, and ecological sustainability.

The provision of good quality food for all also requires direct govern­ment regulation of food quality and of the types of foods that can be pro­duced and marketed. The best way to limit the consumption of processed-reconstituted foods is not through nutrition education campaigns, nor regressive “fat taxes,” but by limiting—through strict food composition regulations—the food industry’s ability to produce poor—quality foods. Determining the criteria for such food regulations means drawing on the latest nutrition science, and therefore negotiating the limitations, debates, and uncertainties within nutrition research. But the focus of research and debate also needs to shift from differentiating between the health impli­cations of whole foods or naturally occurring nutrients, to differentiating and identifying the health effects of foods on the basis of food production and processing quality. Nutrition experts can either lead or be led by the burgeoning food-quality movement and can choose to play a key role in developing food-quality literacy and food policies that promote and pro­tect the quality of our food.

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Gyorgy Scrinis on the Commodification of Nutritionism

“Food corporations have colonized the nutriscape, flooding the food supply with nutritionally engineered products and nutritional marketing claims and accentuating the nutritional anxieties and nutritional needs of consumers—needs that these corporations are well placed to commodify and exploit.”—Gyorgy Scrinis, Nutritionism

Nutritionism, Gyorgy ScrinisIn Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice, Gyorgy Scrinis examines how the idea of “nutritionism” has altered our understanding of food quality and what is truly healthy for us. In the following excerpt from the chapter A Clash of Nutritional Ideologies, how food manufacturers have used the idea of nutritionism for their own gain:

Nutritionism has provided a powerful conceptual framework for trans­forming nutrients and nutritional knowledge into marketable food prod­ucts and for further commodifying food production and consumption practices. Food manufacturers construct a nutritional facade around a food product, a facade for advertising some of the nutrients in the food product. This nutritional facade distracts the attention of consumers from the ingredients, additives, and processing techniques em­ployed in the production of the food. For example, highly refined breakfast cereals with 38 percent sugar content, such as Cocoa Krispies, are adver­tised as a “good source of vitamin D,” a promotion of nutritional benefits common among cereal manufacturers.10 Since the mid-1990s, in the United States and in other countries, government regulators have also al­lowed various types of direct health claims to appear on food labels and in food advertisements. This includes functional claims such as “calcium helps build strong bones” and disease prevention claims such as that the soluble fiber in oats reduces the risk of heart disease. These health claims further exaggerate the role of single nutrients, or of single foods, in the cause or prevention of diseases and other health outcomes.

The introduction of reduced-fat, low-calorie, and vitamin-fortified food products during the 1970s and 1980s has since diversified into the production of a broader range of nutritionally engineered foods with added food components that target a wider range of health conditions. This includes plant sterol–enriched cholesterol-lowering margarine and probiotic yogurt that improves gut health. Nutrition experts and the food industry often refer to these nutritionally engineered and marketed foods as “functional foods,” since they supposedly enhance specific bodily func­tions or health conditions.

There is a deep complicity between nutritionism and the commercial interests of food manufacturers in the present era—a complicity that nu­trition experts have been relatively slow to recognize. The food industry has certainly exploited nutrition science in various ways, such as selec­tively appropriating nutritional research, funding its own nutrition stud­ies, and using government-endorsed health claims to market their prod­ucts. However, the food industry has now also appropriated and taken control of the nutritionism paradigm itself and has become central to its maintenance, dominance, and public dissemination. Food corporations have colonized the nutriscape, flooding the food supply with nutritionally engineered products and nutritional marketing claims and accentuating the nutritional anxieties and nutritional needs of consumers—needs that these corporations are well placed to commodify and exploit. Yet many nutrition experts seem to ignore or be oblivious to this corporate capture of nutritionism, or corporate nutritionism.

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

New Book Tuesday: Sports, Italian Food, Pests, and The Problem with Pleasure

The following books are now available:

Sports Analytics, Benjamin AlamarSports Analytics: A Guide for Coaches, Managers, and Other Decision Makers
Benjamin C. Alamar

Italian Identity in the Kitchen, or Food and the Nation
Massimo Montanari

People, Parasites, and Plowshares: Learning From Our Body’s Most Terrifying Invaders
Dickson D. Despommier

The Problem with Pleasure: Modernism and Its Discontents
Laura Frost

Record of Miraculous Events in Japan: The Nihon ryōiki
Translated by Burton Watson

Neurogastronomy: How the Brain Creates Flavor and Why It Matters
Gordon M. Shepherd

Critical Children: The Use of Childhood in Ten Great Novels (Now available in paperback)
Richard Locke

Rising Sun, Divided Land: Japanese and South Korean Filmmakers
Kate E. Taylor-Jones

Gilbert Simondon: Being and Technology
Edited by Arne De Boever, Alex Murray, Jon Roffe, and Ashley Woodward

Bigotry, Football, and Scotland: Perspectives and Debates
Edited by John Flint and John Kelly

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

Gyorgy Scrinis on Nutritionism

Nutritionism, Gyorgy ScrinisThe following post is by Gyorgy Scrinis, author of Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice:

Does the food you’re eating contain good or bad fats, good or bad carbs, vitamin D, fiber, calcium, antioxidants, cheap calories, or empty calories, and is it low-G.I., energy dense, or nutrient dense? Our language for describing food has itself become nutrient dense, even if many of the manufactured foods and drinks we consume are not.

Nutrition science and dietary advice have for many decades been characterized by a dominant focus on nutrients as the key to understanding the relationship between food and health, and a reductive interpretation of these nutrients. The “truth” of the relationship between food and the body has been sought by nutrition experts—and definitive dietary advice has been communicated to the lay public—primarily at the level of nutrients, rather than at the level of foods and dietary patterns.

Such is the dominance of this ideology of nutritionism, as I refer to it, that until recently it has largely been taken-for-granted and remained unexamined. In Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice, I set out to deconstruct the origins and the characteristics of this understanding of food and nutrients, to explore its various manifestations and consequences, and to propose alternatives to nutritionism.

I reflect on various nutritional debates and controversies across three eras of nutritionism—the eras of quantifying nutritionism, good-and-bad nutritionism, and the contemporary era of functional nutritionism—and through a number of case studies, including the margarine versus butter debate, the battle between diets framed in terms of their macronutrient profile, and the emergence of so-called functional foods that are promoted by the food industry as capable of enhancing our health in a precise and targeted fashion.

The celebration of margarine as a more healthful spread than butter illustrates how a reductive and simplified interpretation of food in terms of supposedly “good” and “bad”fats led nutrition experts to ignore concerns over the highly processed and chemically reconstituted character of margarine, and to exaggerate its health benefits. From the 1960s, margarine was transformed from being a cheap imitation of butter, to being perceived as better than the original food it had been designed to simulate. The unveiling of the harmfulness of the trans-fats in margarine in the 1990s has ironically been used by nutrition experts to reinforce and extend the discourse of good and bad fats (trans-fats are now bad fats). Margarine varieties containing extracted and reconstituted plant sterols are now even celebrated as cholesterol-lowering, health-enhancing functional foods.

The primary way in which weight-loss diets have been promoted since the 1970s is in terms of their ratio of fat, carbs and protein. These diets are premised on the idea that the macronutrient ratio is the prime determinant of a food’s impacts on weight gain or weight loss, regardless of the particular foods in which these macronutrients are contained. The government-endorsed low-fat campaign that dominated the 1980s and 1990s was an early expression of this macronutrient reductionism, insisting that fat is bad, and by extension that reduced-fat foods are better than their high-fat equivalents. The Atkins-style low-carb diet has essentially been a mirror image of the low-fat ideology.

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Monday, June 24th, 2013

Book Giveaway! Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice

Nutritionism is an important contribution to the discourse of the alternative food movement…. Gyorgy Scrinis provides a new language for talking about how our ideas about what makes a good diet have come to be.” — Charlotte Biltekoff, University of California, Davis

Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice

In Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice, Gyorgy Scrinis reveals the scientific, social, and economic factors driving our modern fascination with nutrition.

Throughout the week, we will be featuring Nutritionism: The Science and Politics of Dietary Advice. For more on the book you can also read an excerpt from the chapter A Clash of Nutritional Ideologies.

We are also offering a FREE copy of the book to a lucky winner.

To enter our Book Giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on June 28 at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Friday, June 21st, 2013

University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best posts from the blogs of academic publishers! As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments.

Recent revelations about the Prism internet surveillance program of the US government have dominated the new cycle recently. At the University of Minnesota Press Blog, Ulises A. Mejias weighs in on the impact that the leaked information should have on how we use the types of everyday tools that provide the kind of easily monitored data that Prism examined: Facebook, Twitter, and email in particular.

The continuing violence in Syria has prompted President Obama to “escalate the U.S. intervention in the Syrian Civil War.” At the UNC Press Blog, Michael H. Hunt takes an in-depth look at the language that American politicians have used when speaking about Syria and potential U.S. involvement there.

Does the “first sale doctrine,” long an accepted part of copyright law, apply to digital files? Or, as Alex Sayf Cummings puts it in a post at the OUPblog, “Is there such a thing as a ‘used’ MP3?” In his post, Cummings uses the example of the Capitol Records/ReDigi lawsuit as an entry point to examine issues of online copyright more generally.

This past Sunday was Father’s Day, and at From the Square, the blog of NYU Press, Gayle Kaufman has a post proposing a “legal wish list” for fathers in America. Included on the wish list: paid paternity leave, shorter work hours, paid vacation, and a weekly “Daddy Day.”

From the Square also continued their celebration of Pride Month with a number of excellent posts on the issues faced by LGBT Americans today, including a detailed look at the future role of government in the process of marriage by Melanie Heath. Beacon Broadside also has a ongoing series of posts on Pride Month, and this week Melanie Hoffert has a post explaining some of the differences in LGBT experiences in cities and rural areas.

June 16th was also Bloomsday, the celebration of the anniversary of Leopold Bloom’s “metaphysical and gastronomical (and maybe pataphysical) journey through Dublin on June 16th, 1904.” (Bloom, of course, is the protagonist of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses.) At the MIT Press blog, Andrew Hugill has a guest post in honor of the occasion.

The history of the interplay between the private and public sectors in Africa is complicated. At This Side of the Pond, the blog of Cambridge University Press, Anne Pitcher attempts to untangle that relationship by contrasting Togo, Niger, and Cameroon with Mozambique, Uganda, Ghana, Zambia, and Cape Verde.

At Voices in Education, the blog of Harvard Education Publishing, Kavitha Mediratta attempts to sort through another complicated issue: how to ensure school safety in the wake of recent school shootings without creating or exacerbating problems with academic success. Mediratta points to recent moves by Colorado to balance the roles of educators and police in Denver schools as a step in the right direction.

The role of libraries has been a much-discussed topic recently, as a couple of high-profile articles questioning their worth in a digital work have garnered a great deal of attention. At the AMACOM Books Blog, however, Managing Editor Andy Ambraziejus has a guest post defending the importance of libraries by emphasizing their role in the communities they serve.

New internet-based family history and genealogy sites have given many users a direct connection to past events. At the LSU Press Blog, Alfred C. Young III explains how such connections can foster a new interest in the Civil War, in particular.

At the McGill-Queen’s Press blog, Miranda Campbell has the second half of her post on “privilege, poverty, and youth creative work.” In this half of her post, she looks at various government efforts to showcase and reward youth art.

Finally, we’ll wrap things up with a post by Jeffrey Shandler at the Indiana University Press blog. In his post, Shandler looks at recent headlines arguing over how modern people should treat the memory of Anne Frank.

Thanks again for reading this week’s roundup! Have a great weekend, and leave any thoughts in the comments!

Friday, June 21st, 2013

Donna Dickenson: Reclaiming Biotechnology for the Common Good

Donna Dickenson, Me Medicine vs. We Medicine

“Under the pressure of corporate interests and neoliberal policies, we’ve lost sight of the idea of the commons in biomedicine—but it has only disappeared temporarily from view. Reclaiming biotechnology for the greater good will involve resurrecting the commons.”—Donna Dickenson

In “Reclaiming Biotechnology for the Common Good,” the final chapter of Me Medicine vs. We Medicine: Reclaiming Biotechnology for the Common Good, Donna Dickenson explores some of the recent efforts to move away from personalized medicine toward processes in which genetic and other medical information is broadly shared and benefits many. Here is an excerpt from the chapter:

The idea of the genome as the common heritage of humanity underpinned the international agreement reached by scientists in the “Bermuda statement,” which declares: “All human genome sequence information from a publicly funded project should be freely available in the public domain.”.. There’s also the 1997 UNESCO Universal Declaration on the Human Genome and Hu­man Rights, which states: “In a symbolic sense, the human genome is the common heritage of humanity . . . [and] in its natural state, shall not give rise to financial gain” (articles 1 and 4). So how did we move from this originally communitarian vision for the new genetic biomedicine to the now-dominant personalized medicine paradigm?

Here in the final sections of the book, I want to introduce a new argument: under the pressure of corporate interests and neoliberal policies, we’ve lost sight of the idea of the commons in biomedicine—but it has only disappeared temporarily from view. Reclaiming biotechnology for the greater good will involve resurrecting the commons. That’s a tall order, I know, but moves are already afoot to give us grounds for optimism. The commons has become a focus of activism, from the Occupy Wall Street movement that was in the me­dia spotlight in 2011 to decisions involving private patenting in the U.S. Su­preme Court.

Governance of the commons has received substantial attention and analy­sis in terms of common property in land and the environment. But the no-property-in-the-body rule in law has limited its applicability to the idea of a common property in the genome or human tissue. An exception can be made for James Boyle’s wide-ranging application of the commons model to “sha­mans [traditional knowledge], software [information technology and the open-access movement] and spleens [human tissue].”

Although some attention has focused on the genome, many other aspects of modern biomedicine could, and I think should, be considered a commons. This is a novel argument, one original to this book. I’ve been interested in the concept of the commons in biomedicine for some time, primarily in terms of commodification of the body. Yet my thinking has moved on through con­sidering the wide range of examples I’ve analyzed in this book. I now see ad­ditional weight and heft in the concept of the commons, extending beyond the genome, although certainly also relevant there.

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Thursday, June 20th, 2013

An interview with Michael M. Weinstein and Ralph M. Bradburd in The Chronicle of Philanthropy

The Robin Hood Rules for Smart Giving

On Sunday, The Chronicle of Philanthropy ran an interview with Michael M. Weinstein and Ralph M. Bradburd, authors of The Robin Hood Rules for Smart Giving. In the interview, Weinstein and Bradburd explain how the Robin Hood Foundation makes grant-making decisions, and discuss why philanthropic foundations would be smart to learn how to better understand costs and benefits of projects they wish to pursue. Here are a few of the highlights:

Q: How does Robin Hood make its grant-making decisions?

Mr. Weinstein: We take each proposal and the first thing we do is identify all of the poverty-relevant benefits it might produce. What we count as poverty fighting are things that lift the living standards of low-income New Yorkers.

Once we’ve made that list, we assign a monetary value to each of those benefits, whether it’s gaining a high-school diploma, a health benefit, or a lower probability of criminality.

It’s a combination of a probability that the benefit will occur with the dollar value, if it does occur. We add them up and divide it by the cost.

Q: How does Robin Hood manage risk?

Mr. Weinstein: We have a board with a large number of hedge-fund traders and financial types who are used to risk and don’t mind it.

I joke that if the program staff reported to the board that every grant we had made the previous year succeeded, we’d all be fired. If nothing fails, you’re not taking any chances.

We look at the ideas that excite us the most and then we impose a hard constraint—one year from today, we will have the data that tell us whether we’re succeeding or not.

Mr. Bradburd: Philanthropy has adopted a standard of cost-effectiveness. There’s a difference between lean and mean, and starving and stupid.

Donors should be focusing on the overall benefit per dollar of expenditures, not on just what percentage of total revenues is being spent on administration. Donors should ask the people who are asking them for money how they’re measuring the benefits of what they’re spending.

To read the interview in its entirety, click here.

Thursday, June 20th, 2013

Donna Dickenson on How Neoliberalism Is Shaping Science and Medicine

“Who would have predicted twenty years ago that you could get people to pay to … have a spit sample ana­lyzed to predict their personal propensity to common diseases?”—Donna Dickenson, Me Medicine vs. We Medicine

Donna Dickenson, Me Medicine vs. We MedicineIn the following excerpt from the chapter A Reality Check for Personalized Medicine from her new book Me Medicine vs. We Medicine: Reclaiming Biotechnology for the Common Good, Donna Dickenson explores the connections between neoliberalism, science, and biotechnology:

Personalized medicine hasn’t just sprung up in a political or economic vacuum. It has coincided with the ascendancy of “neoliberal” political ideol­ogy, which, as [Nobel prize-winning geneticist] [John] Sulston argues, has affected science and medicine profoundly.

This viewpoint isn’t unique to Sulston: it is taken up and analyzed at consider­able depth in Philip Mirowski’s cleverly titled Science-Mart: Privatizing American Science. As a professor of both economics and philosophy of sci­ence, Mirowski is well qualified to track what he believes to be a deliberate political effort over the past four decades to incorporate neoliberal economic and political policies into academic science….

This dominance of the market is the source of the ideology of “private good, public bad,” which I linked earlier in this chapter to the rise of Me Medicine and the decline of We Medicine. If the notion of common welfare is to be distrusted, and if interventions such as public health programs are regarded as interference with individual rights, We Medicine will automatically be suspect. Hostile reac­tions to vaccination programs, for example, aren’t just a matter of a few vitu­perative cranks: they’re sanctioned in an indirect way by a more general climate of distrust for any state initiative.

But although the official message of neoliberalism is “hands off,” the actual policies pursued everywhere from banking to biotechnology involve state in­tervention to subsidize loss-making activity for the private sector. For banks, that’s meant the losses made on junk bonds and subprime mortgages; for sci­ence, it’s the non-profit-making research and development phases. In both cases, we often witness the conversion of the asset to private hands once it’s profitable: what the sociologist Stuart Hall calls “siphoning state funding to the private sector.”.. In the UK banking sector, for example, the government res­cued the failed bank Northern Rock with taxpayers’ money, to avoid another collapse like that of Lehman Brothers in the United States. But it then overrode calls to keep the bank in national hands and sold it in November 2011 to Virgin Money, reportedly for something like half what it had paid for it.

In the United States, the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980 encouraged private capital to enter the scientific marketplace and promised to subsidize any losses in­curred in the process. “To allow wealth from discoveries to be realized, the Act turned the principle of capitalism on its head: ‘private risk yields private loss or gain’ became ‘public risk yields public loss or private gain’—a form of ‘heads I win, tails you lose.’ ”.. In April 2012, the Obama White House an­nounced its “National Bioeconomy Blueprint,” which “outlines steps that agen­cies can take to drive the bioeconomy” in a time of economic uncertainty, much in the spirit of Bayh-Dole… Mention of any risks from genetic engi­neering or other technologies is confined to a footnote, otherwise framed as “beyond the scope of this document.”..

We can trace this same neoliberal trajectory in the development of fi rms such as deCODE Genetics, which depended on the free public resource of the Icelandic national population database but retained all profits for itself… It’s also evident in the way that private umbilical cord blood banks in the United Kingdom often piggyback on NHS hospital staff provision and rely for their marketing appeal on the hope that stem cell research—typically funded by government research councils and thus by the taxpayer—will “add value” to the stored blood.

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Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Michael Marder and Monica Gagliano: How Do Plants Sound?

Plant-Thinking

Today, we have a guest post from Michael Marder, IKERBASQUE Research Professor of Philosophy at the University of the Basque Country and author of Plant-Thinking: A Philosophy of Vegetal Life, and Monica Gagliano, a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Centre for Evolutionary Biology of the University of Western Australia. In their post, partially inspired by a video of the “Singing Plants at Damanhur,” Marder and Gagliano discuss recent evidence that suggests that plants “produce sounds independently of dehydration and cavitation-related processes.”

While walking in a forest on a sunny day, we imbibe a whole symphony of sounds: the chirping of birds, the soft rustling of the breeze in the leafs, the flowing of water in a creek… In the midst of this rich acoustic ensemble of organic and inorganic nature, the plants themselves appear to be silent. As French poet, Francis Ponge simply expresses this in “Fauna and Flora,” “they have no voice”, ils n’ont pas de voix. Ponge’s statement, confirmed by our experience of a promenade in a forest, is so obvious, and yet so far from the truth!
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Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Donna Dickenson, author of Me Medicine vs. We Medicine, Takes the Page 99 Test

“We risk losing sight of the common good in biotechnology—what I call ‘We Medicine’—in our haste to embrace personalized healthcare.”–Donna DickensonDonna Dickenson, Me Medicine vs. We Medicine

The Page 99 Test asks authors to turn to page 99 in their books and explain how the page fits in with the larger aspects of their book. Recently, Donna Dickenson, author of Me Medicine vs. We Medicine: Reclaiming Biotechnology for the Common Good , took part and discussed the page’s description of private umbilical private banking. As she explains, it is a process in which “a portion of the blood that would normally flow from the placenta to the baby is diverted during delivery … and stored—at a charge– as a private ‘spare parts kit’ for the child’s later use, if stem cell technologies ever get to that point.”

The procedure in many ways underscores how “personalized” medical procedures (Me Medicine) can sometimes undermine public health (We Medicine). Dickenson explains the possible drawback for “We Medicine” caused by umbilical private banking: “But that means that public cord blood banks, open to all regardless of ability to pay, lose out on that contribution—and the procedure may increase the risk of jaundice or anemia for the baby. It’s an emblematic example of the potential harms in individualized medicine.”

While page 99′s description of umbilical banking offers a fairly detailed description of a medical procedure it provides an important factual and scientific base to allow readers and society to think about Dickenson’s larger argument, which she explains:

We risk losing sight of the common good in biotechnology—what I call “We Medicine”—in our haste to embrace personalized healthcare. To set this debate in a wider political and economic context, I examine four possible reasons for the rise of Me Medicine: a sense of threat, the rise of narcissism, corporate interests backed by neo-liberal government policy, and the sacredness of personal choice.

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Rewiring the Real reviewed in the Los Angeles Review of Books

Rewiring the Real

This weekend, the Los Angeles Review of Books ran a review by N. Katherine Hayles of Mark C. Taylor’s Rewiring the Real: In Conversation with William Gaddis, Richard Powers, Mark Danielewski, and Don DeLillo. Hayles examines the way that Taylor chooses to “construct [his] own audience” rather than write for “other critics,” and after a thorough look at the insights that Taylor offers in linking literature and religion, claims that “even if Taylor would likely disagree, … [Rewiring the Real] is a provocative, engaging, significant, and resistant work of literary criticism.”

Hayle’s review begins by pointing out the differences between most works of literary criticism and Rewiring the Real, notably the fact that Taylor seems to be engaging with philosophers and theologians rather than critics:

The absence of references to literary scholarship in Taylor’s book is all the more striking because of his wide-ranging evocations of difficult works in religion and philosophy. The presumed reader has perhaps heard of Nietzsche, Heidegger, Bataille, Derrida, Kant, Fichte, and a host of others in these traditions, but may not know their philosophies in depth. Rewiring the Real dares to imagine the creature whose existence seems increasingly imperiled by web surfing, video games, and distracted attention: the general educated book reader. Significantly, Taylor does more than ignore literary criticism; he actively resists it, choosing to locate the payoff for his readings as contributions to a field that does not yet exist — literature and religion, or better still literature as secular theology — but that he strives to bring into being. As if following the mantra, “if you build it, they will come,” he aims to convince his readers not only to believe in, but also to imagine themselves inhabiting, this hypothetical field.

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Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

New Book Tuesday: Business Secrets of the Trappist Monks, The Engine of Complexity, New Books from Transcript Verlag, and More!

Our weekly list of new titles including just published books from our new distributed press Transcript Verlag:

Business Secrets of the Trappist MonksBusiness Secrets of the Trappist Monks: One CEO’s Quest for Meaning and Authenticity
August Turak

The Engine of Complexity: Evolution as Computation
John E. Mayfield

New Perspectives on International Migration and Development
Edited by Jeronimo Cortina and Enrique Ochoa-Reza

Confronting Injustice and Oppression: Concepts and Strategies for Social Workers
David G. Gil

Film Dialogue
Edited by Jeff Jaeckle

Eastwood’s Iwo Jima: Critical Engagements With Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima
Edited by Anne Gjelsvik and Rikke Schubart

Transatlantic Cultural Exchange: African American Women’s Art and Activism in West Germany
Katharina Gerund

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Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Donna Dickenson — Me Medicine vs. We Medicine

“I ask this crucial question: how did we move from what was originally presented as a communitarian vision for the new genetic biomedicine to the now-dominant personalized medicine paradigm?”—Donna Dickenson

Me Medicine vs. We Medicine, Donna DickensonThe following post is by Donna Dickenson, author of Me Medicine vs. We Medicine: Reclaiming Biotechnology for the Common Good.

Even in the increasingly individualized American medical system, advocates of personalized medicine claim that healthcare isn’t individualized enough. Backed up by the glamor of new biotechnologies such as direct-to-consumer genetic testing or neurocognitive enhancement, personalized medicine—what I call “Me Medicine”– appears to its advocates as the inevitable and desirable way of the future. By contrast, what I term “We Medicine”—public health programs such as flu jabs or childhood vaccinations—is widely distrusted and highly vulnerable to austerity cutbacks.

I don’t automatically assume that Me Medicine is bad and We Medicine is good, even though the proponents of personalized healthcare very rarely challenge their own preconception that the reverse is true. Instead, I do my level best to give a balanced, evidence-based account. In some areas of Me Medicine, such as pharmacogenetic individualized drug regimes for cancer care, there really has been genuine progress, but the evidence base is patchy or even damaging for other Me Medicine technologies such as private umbilical cord blood banking. Given that the scientific evidence alone doesn’t dictate that you have to be ready to accept the supposed revolution of personalized medicine, what does?

I look critically at four possible explanations for the growing dominance of Me Medicine, some of which turn out to be more convincing than others: a sense of threat to our health, narcissism and decline in public-spiritedness, corporate interests backed up by neoliberal government policy, and the near-sacredness of autonomy and choice in our thinking. And I ask this crucial question: how did we move from what was originally presented as a communitarian vision for the new genetic biomedicine to the now-dominant personalized medicine paradigm?

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Monday, June 17th, 2013

Book Giveaway! Me Medicine vs. We Medicine by Donna Dickenson

Me Medicine vs. We Medicine

Personalized healthcare—or what the award-winning author Donna Dickenson calls “Me Medicine”—is radically transforming our longstanding “one-size-fits-all” model. Technologies such as direct-to-consumer genetic testing, pharmacogenetically developed therapies in cancer care, private umbilical cord blood banking, and neurocognitive enhancement claim to cater to an individual’s specific biological character. However, whatever is behind the rise of Me Medicine, is more than just science. So why is Me Medicine rapidly edging out We Medicine, and how has our commitment to our collective health suffered as a result?

These issues are explored in Me Medicine vs. We Medicine: Reclaiming Biotechnology for the Common Good, by Donna Dickenson. Throughout the week, we will be featuring TMe Medicine vs. We Medicine: Reclaiming Biotechnology for the Common Good. For more on the book you can also read an excerpt from the chapter A Reality Check for Personalized Medicine.

We are also offering a FREE copy of the book to a lucky winner.

To enter our Book Giveaway, simply e-mail pl2164@columbia.edu with your name and preferred mailing address. We will randomly select one winner on June 21 at 1:00 pm. Good luck, and spread the word!

Friday, June 14th, 2013

University Press Roundup

Welcome to our weekly roundup of the best posts from the blogs of academic publishers! As always, if you particularly enjoy something or think that we missed an important post, please let us know in the comments.

The United Nations’ most recent report on Syria was published on June 13, and the MIT Press blog has an excerpt from an essay on the Syrian government’s increasingly close relationship with Hezbollah in the years after Bashar Al-Assad took over the presidency in 2000. This relationship is particularly important now, as Hezbollah leadership has confirmed that Hezbollah forces will join the fighting in Syria in support of Al-Assad.

Alexander the Great died on June 10, 323 BC. The OUPblog looked back at the reign and legacy of one of the best-known leaders of the ancient world with an excerpt from John Atkinson’s introduction to Arrian’s Alexander the Great. Elsewhere on the OUPblog, Deborah Sims has an entertaining and informative history of Superman for those who want to brush up on their Man of Steel knowledge before seeing Man of Steel.

At the JHU Press Blog, Donald R. Prothero (also a CUP author and editor several times over) addresses the “litany of bad climate news” that has come out over the past year, explains how the new climate studies reinforce the message that man-made climate change is very real, and gives our title The Hockey Stick and the Climate Wars a shoutout along the way.

What is a “trash animal”? At the University of Minnesota Press blog, Kelsi Nagy discusses how the phrase “trash animal” has been used in different contexts to denigrate various species of animals deemed undesirable for any number of reasons. Nagy claims, however, that “we can’t call an animal “trash” without implicating ourselves.”

“Are young people aspiring to creative careers just a bunch of whiny trust fund brats?” At the McGill-Queen’s University Press blog, Miranda Campbell looks at the messages put forward in a new advertising campaign designed to “persuade youth to consider a career in the skilled trades” by the government of British Columbia.

Macklemore and Ryan Lewis have made waves with the popularity of “Same Love,” a “a “conscious” rap about rejecting gay stereotypes in support of same-sex marriage.” However, at From the Square, the blog of NYU Press, Karen Tongson talks about the problems she sees with the song, pointing out that it “unwittingly plays upon the classical tropes of homosexual narcissism, while also trotting out the newer rhetoric of equivalency.”

At the UNC Press Blog, Andrew Cayton has a fascinating post about how the personal letters of historical figures (in this particular case, nineteenth-century intellectuals Mary Wollstonecraft, William Godwin, and Gilbert Imlay) can elucidate the thoughts and feelings of long-dead people, allowing readers to “[meet] these people as interlocutors more than as subjects.”

This week, the University of California Press Blog put up “God in Proof,” the latest episode of their UC Press Podcast featuring Nathan Schneider, who takes listeners on a philosophical tour of proofs of the existence of God.

At The Florida Bookshelf, the blog of the University Press of Florida, Kathleen Kaska continues her ongoing series on the whooping cranes’ battle for survival as a species. This week, she discusses how habitat destruction, the Keystone XL pipeline in particular, impacts the future of the whooping crane.

Finally, we’ll wrap things up this week with a guest post by John Haddad at North Philly Notes, the blog of Temple University Press. In his post, Haddad looks at the Hong Kong Reperatory Theater’s staging of a play about the first commercial voyage taken to China by an American ship.

Thanks again for reading this week’s roundup! Have a great weekend, and leave any thoughts in the comments!

Friday, June 14th, 2013

“I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave,” by Mac McClelland — Best Busines Writing 2013

In “I Was a Warehouse Wage Slave,” originally published in Mother Jones and included in The Best Business Writing 2013, Mac McClelland describes her experiences working at a warehouse for an Internet company. She describes conditions in which workers are tightly monitored and work under difficult, even painful conditions as they are pressured to pick items as quickly as possible so they can get out to customers. Given the scarcity of jobs, the workers have little choice but to endure the difficult, frequently unreasonable demands.

Below is an excerpt from the article: