Shifting Temporalities in Biomedicine

Shifting Temporalities in Biomedicine

Institute of the History, Philosophy and Ethics of Medicine in Mainz (Germany); Laboratoire SPHERE of the University Paris Diderot, École Normale Superieur
Station of Marine Biology, F-Roscoff
Roscoff (Bretagne)
Vom - Bis
05.10.2013 - 10.10.2013
Axel Hüntelmann

Call for Proposals
International Summer School, 5-10 October 2013 in Roscoff (France)

Shifting Temporalities in Biomedicine

The meaning of medicine has been transformed over the course of the 20th century: it has become biomedicine on a molecular basis. Based on novel and partly disruptive technologies, biomedicine has ventured into new spheres of interpretation not just within the (life) sciences but also in the wider sociocultural realm. Promising to solve some of society’s fundamental and vital problems, biomedicine has become the new vanguard science. After detaching biological processes from their natural space and time, matters of life and its temporalities seem to have become malleable entities.

Against this background, a selection of shifting temporalities in biomedicine deserve critical evaluation:
- Suspending biological time in experimental systems;
- Overriding time in biological cycles, for example in technologically assisted reproduction;
- Shifting latencies, such as in epidemics/chronic diseases or ecologically triggered biohazards;
- Processes of chronification in somatic and psychiatric diseases;
- Evolving concepts of life time and life span.

Without a doubt, »Time matters«, as the sociologist Andrew Abbott put it. Time is a physical entity, but its structural organisation and our sense of time is a socio-cultural construction that is influenced by culture and individual perception (Norbert Elias, Helga Nowotny). This raises questions about the simultaneity and interrelationship between ›natural‹, organic, and life time on the one hand, and a mechanistic, synchronised and chronological organisation of time (Bergson) on the other. How do different time regimes coexist contemporaneously? In what ways have biotechnologies changed our understanding of time and temporality? If we assume that biotechnologies have changed the understanding of time and temporality and if we assume that biomedicine has an important impact on culture, it follows that we need to ask how shifting temporalities in biomedicine have modulated our understanding of time and temporality in general. Ernst Bloch has coined the phrase »simultaneity of the non-simultaneous« (Gleichzeitigkeit des Ungleichzeitigen) to explain how different historical processes overlap and unfold at the same time. And finally, in what sense is our entanglement with simultaneities and contingencies creating a broad concept of the present (Gumbrecht) and force us to rethink the chronicity of our own lives?

The Summer School is designed for graduate students and post-docs working on topics in the history and philosophy of the life sciences. We welcome interdisciplinary proposals from diverse national contexts. The Summer School provides participants with a unique opportunity to pres-ent their works in a stimulating and inspiring atmosphere at the marine biology and oceanography research station in Roscoff (France, Brittany) and to engage with German, French and US-American experts working on aspects of temporality. The keynote lecture will be given by Anne Fagot (Paris) and additional speakers will include among others Norbert Paul (Mainz), Mita Banerjee (Mainz), Alain Leplege (Paris), Claude Debru (Paris), and Maël Lemoine (Paris).

Participants’ accommodations at the Station of Marine Biology and their travel expenses will be covered. Presentations are welcome in German, English, or French, but our discussion will rely on pre-circulated papers that need to be in English. Please send your proposals (300-600 words) to Axel C. Hüntelmann ( and Alain Leplege ( by:

17 June 2013.

The Summer School is a joint initiative of the Institute of the History, Philosophy and Ethics of Medicine in Mainz (Germany) and the Laboratoire SPHERE of the University Paris Diderot, the École Normale Superieur. It is funded by the German-French University (DFA-UFA).



Axel Huentelmann

Institut für Geschichte, Theorie und Ethik der Medizin

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Englisch, Französisch, Deutsch
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