Jaana Parviainen and Ayo Wahlberg as keynote speakers in the workshop “Theorising contestation of health and wellbeing: State of the art and how to move forward?” , 20-21 January 2022

We are delighted to welcome Dr. Jaana Parviainen (University of Tampere) and Professor Ayo Wahlberg (University of Copenhagen) as keynote speakers for the event. Here below you can find abstracts of their presentations.

Non-knowledge and political decision-making in the age of the coronavirus

Jaana Parviainen

The coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) has had far-reaching effects on public health and led to global socioeconomic disruption despite attempts to prevent the spread of the disease by quarantine. The international committee World Health Assembly (WHA), convened by World Health Organization (WHO), cautioned in 2011 that the outbreak of a new pandemic is inevitable but many countries have been ill-prepared to respond to a severe influenza pandemic. European countries including Finland have had pandemic plans but few have recently tested them in the real life. Under the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemics, public authorities and politicians have struggled how to manage an enormous amount of ignorance regarding the virus. In this presentation, my purpose is to discuss the role of non-knowledge in political decision-making by analyzing the actions of the Finnish government in the Spring 2020. Drawing on insights from social epistemology, science and technology studies (STS) and the emerging interdisciplinary field of ignorance studies, my presentation focuses on the the temporality of non-knowledge in decision-making, e.g., the role of scenarios and predictions as ‘not-yet-known’. Illustrating my epistemic analysis with media material and press releases by the Finnish government, my paper proposes that making decisions under ignorance requires new forms of rationality, justification, legitimation, and observation of consequences.

Knowing better

Ayo Wahlberg

When people feel unwell they often seek out ways by which to get better. In some cases, sensations and feelings of malaise and discomfort can signal something that is acutely life-threatening. In other cases, feeling unwell can be directly connected to a known chronic condition that,  perhaps unknowingly, has “crept up” on a person. Yet, in probably more cases of “medically unexplained” or “diffuse” sensations and embodied feelings, people are left frustrated without a (biomedical) explanation (e.g. diagnosis) for their unwellbeing. In such cases, people may seek out so-called “alternative” or “traditional” explanations and related forms of treatment and care. In this talk, I explore the notion of “contestation” when it comes to health by asking: what does it mean to “know better” when it comes to health? I suggest that, more than a matter of epistemology alone, this question has to do with what might be thought of as situated pluralism which is to say the variegated ways in which certain explanations and courses of action come to gain ‘currency’ over others.

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