CFP: Theorizing Harm


“Lesson D: He Died.” Collograph print by Max Liboiron, 2003.

Call for Papers: Theorizing Harm
Annual Meeting of the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S)
Boston, Massachusetts, August 30 – September 2, 2017
Co-conveners: Beza Merid (USC) and Max Liboiron (Memorial University of Newfoundland)

Whether focused on toxicity, disease, disaster, violence, or malfunction, STS scholars have long studied harm. Given the great diversity of approaches and cases, this panel seeks to take an intersectional approach to theorizing harm.

We ask how harm is re/defined by the systems it is part of. In Mary Douglas’ theorization of pollution, she claims that, “where there is dirt, there is system: […] a set of ordered relations and a contravention of that order” (1988: 36). Harm is also a contravention of order. What characterizes these orders and their infringement? How are definitions of harm challenged and what is being challenged, exactly? How do different metrics, modes of management, regimes of perceptibility, systems of power, and accountability co-define harm? What are the spatialities and temporalities of harm, and how do they co-construct harm? In short, what is harm and why? The answers will depend on their cases, but we hold that despite differences, there are unifying characteristics. We seek to explore these through a collection of papers that explicitly theorize harm.

We invite papers from a wide range of approaches to thinking about harm: pollution, biomedicine, ecosystems, disease, labour, race, class, gender, Indigeneity, law, risk, history, reproductive justice, media studies, repair studies, and more.

Submit an abstract of 250 words to Beza Merid ( and Max Liboiron ( by February 15th. Note that we are seeking papers that explicitly theorize harm, as opposed to those that describe it or its metrics.