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PoLAR Symposium:  Papering Ethics, Documenting Consent: The New Bureaucracies of Virtue

Conference Papers: Papers are available to conference partcipants only. If you would like copies, please e-mail PoLAR Symposium: The New Bureaucracies of Virtue
October 26-28, 2006, Cornell University

Organized by Annelise Riles, Cornell Law School; Marie-Andree Jacob, Université du Québec à Montréal

This symposium, to be published in Political and Legal Anthropology Review, will take an ethnographic look at the enterprise of ethics. Once a soft humanitarian twist to academic and commercial ventures, relegated to the margins of knowledge, ethics is an increasingly mainstream, high profile, well funded, and bureaucratically complex discipline. What it has kept from its childhood years is its catchy wording and self-assured sense that it is engaged in making things better. The coalition between ethical norms and legal norms is becoming clearer. The two find themselves enmeshed together in the same texts. Both are proliferating in the domain of medical and social science research. The flourishing of the discourse of ethics provokes the need for more domestic, international and transnational legal norms, and vice-versa. In this context law and ethics co-construct one another, and are mutually profitable. Globalization has exacerbated the phenomenon, by adding transnational borrowings and legal transplants to the cross-disciplinary borrowings between law and ethics. Papers presented at the symposium focus on one evocative example of ethics that is, the discourse and practice of informed consent. The anxieties that informed consent poses for ethnographers reveal plenty about the floating assumptions ethnographers hold about the knowledge they fabricate. The expectant characteristics of ethnographic work: efficiency, transparency, rigor, or authenticity, are profoundly challenged by the question of consent. Participants will harness these practical anxieties in view of a larger theoretical, normative and epistemological inquiry.

Participants will include:

  • Annelise Riles, Cornell University, co-organizer
  • Marie-Andrée Jacob, Université du Québec à Montréal, co-organizer
  • Charles Bosk, University of Pennsylvania
  • Timothy Choy, Ohio State University
  • Jennifer Hamilton, Baylor College of Medicine
  • Stephen Hilgartner, Cornell University
  • Rena Lederman, Princeton University
  • Michael Lynch, Cornell University
  • Marilyn Norcini, University of Pennsylvania
  • Adriana Petryna, University of Pennsylvania
  • Jennifer Shannon, Cornell University
  • Stefan Sperling, Harvard University
  • Laura Stark, Northwestern University
  • Mark Suchman, University of Wisconsin
  • Amy Swiffen, University of Alberta
  • Bradley Wendel, Cornell Law School

Symposium Schedule
Thursday, 26 October, 2006
Law School Faculty Lounge, 2nd floor, Myron Taylor Hall

4:00 – 4:30pm: Introductory session, Annelise Riles and Marie-Andrée Jacob, co-conveners.

4:30 – 6:30pm: Panel One

  • Rena Lederman, Princeton University, Comparative ‘research.’
  • Amy Swiffen, University of Alberta, Research and Moral law:
  • Ethics and the Social Science Research Relation.
  • Stefan Sperling, Harvard University, Knowledge Rites and the Right Not to Know
  • Tim Choy, Ohio State University, Commentator  

6:00 – 7:00pm: Reception

Friday, October 27, 2006
374 Rockefeller Hall, Cornell University

9:30am : Breakfast

10:00am – 12:00pm: Panel Two

  • Jennifer Ann Shannon, Cornell University, Informed Consent: Bureaucratic procedure and changing fieldwork relations.
  • Marilyn Norcini, University of Pennsylvania Museum, Ethnography of Consent: A case study in negotiating meanings and values across tribal and university cultures.
  • Jennifer Hamilton, Baylor College of Medicine, Ethnography, Ethics, and Culturally Appropriate Informed Consent. 
  • Mark Suchman, University of Wisconsin:  Commentator:

12:00 – 2:00pm: Lunch

2:00 – 4:00pm: Panel Three

  • Laura Stark, Northwestern University, From narrative consent forms to consent forms with a narrative: The implications of expanding bureaucracy, changing technology, and the myth of the biomedical model.
  • Adriana Petryna, University of Pennsylvania, Mapping the Globalized Clinical Trial
  • Charles Bosk, University of Pennsylvania, Goal Displacement, Bureaucracy, and Regulated Virtue: A Growth Industry in a 'No Service' Economy
  • Mike Lynch, Cornell University:  Commentator:

4:00pm: Free time  (possibly to visit the Cascadilla Park waterfalls, Cornell Plantations, Johnson Museum, Ithaca Commons, etc.)

Saturday, October 28, 2006
Institute for the Social Sciences Conference Room, 146 Myron Taylor Hall

9am: Breakfast

10:00 – 11:30am: Panel Four

  • Stephen Hilgartner, Cornell University, Engineering Orderly Revolutions? Ethics Programs in Genomics and Nanotechnology
  • Marie-Andrée Jacob, Université du Québec à Montréal, Consent and the Misfits of Formalized Exchanges.
  • Bradley Wendel, Cornell Law School:  Commentator

11:30am – 12:30pm: Wrap-up session. Chair and Commentator: Annelise Riles, Cornell University