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Message posted on 02/12/2022

Ecobiosocial complexities: encounters, critiques, integrations

Dear colleagues,

We are very happy to invite you to the 2nd and 3rd sessions of the Ecobiosocial complexities: encounters, critiques, integrations international seminar series. The sessions will take place Wednesday, december 7 and Thursday, december 8, from 12:00 to 13:30 in GEO-2215 and online here https://epfl.zoom.us/j/66516277875

Wednesday, we will welcome Sverine Louvel (Science Po Grenoble) and Julien Larregue (Universit de Laval) for a talk entitled: ( Un )healthy neighborhoods ? When social epigenetics meets the Chicago school of sociology (summary below)

Thursday, we will welcome Michelle Pentecost (King's College London) for a talk entitled: Preconception interventions for DOHaD : opportunities and challenges (summary below)

More information on the website of the STS Lab @UNIL: https://www.unil.ch/stslab/home/menuinst/activities/evenements.html We look forward to seeing you there !

Luca Chiapperino, Francesco Panese and Ccile Fasel


(Un)healthy neighborhoods? When social epigenetics meets the Chicago school of sociology

Since the 2010s, social epigenetics -the study of the epigenetic mechanisms through which social environments become biologically embodied- is often heralded as a research area that grasps the biosocial entanglements between material bodies and living conditions, and as a promising interdisciplinary crossroad between the biological and the social sciences. Several social scientists have argued that, so far, research in social epigenetics does not live up to expectations: it deletes the complexity of social environments and is practically not informed by social scientific approaches.

However, a nascent stream of research in social epigenetics -involving researchers in social epidemiology and in sociology- resonates with the Chicago school of sociology. It investigates neighborhood effects on health, especially among racialized and disadvantaged social groups in the United States. Does it open up interdisciplinary research avenues? Does it imply a new critical discourse on social epigenetics? Drawing on interviews with researchers and qualitative analyses of the published literature, this presentation addresses the methodological and theoretical difficulties that such endeavors inevitably face and their consequences on the working dynamics of the interdisciplinary spaces that emerged in between social and biological sciences.

Preconception interventions for DOHaD: opportunities and challenges

While the Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) as a field has been built on extensive physiological and epidemiological observational studies, there is recognition that the DOHaD evidence base requires a shift to human intervention trials if it is to have any policy traction. As intervention studies become more commonplace in the field of DOHaD, it is also, essential to integrate a multidisciplinary perspective and integrate social science approaches. Indeed, DOHaD is proving to be a productive and creative ground for biosocial collaboration between scientists and social scientists (including psychologists, anthropologists, sociologists and science studies scholars), with recognition that integrating social science in interventions ensures that there is ongoing attention to assumptions embedded in frameworks; maintenance of complexity in the face of the temptation to reach for the silver bullet; a retained sensitivity to socio-political and historical context; and active brokerage of new experimental forms of engagement with the communities of actors involved. Such contributions are especially important given that DOHaD intervention studies will most frequently use complex public health interventions, where traditional methods are unable to capture the complexity of how context impacts intervention (and vice versa) and where social science frameworks may prove more useful for understanding non-linear relationships and explaining results. In this talk I will introduce the case study of the Healthy Life Trajectories Initiative (HeLTI), to illustrate the dynamics of a biosocial approach in action and discuss the benefits of building research infrastructures in DOHaD such that diverse disciplinary perspectives are given equal standing.


Ccile Fasel

MD-PhD student University of Lausanne Faculty of Social and Political Sciences Institute of Social Sciences STSLab SNSF Ambizione Project: "Constructing the Biosocial"

Quartier UNIL-Mouline Btiment Gopolis, Bureau 5543 CH-1015 Lausanne - Switzerland cecile.fasel@unil.ch

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