mercredi 2 avril 2014

Le soi de la théorie immunologique

Becoming Autoimmune? The ‘Self’ of Immunological Theory and the ‘Self’ of Chronic Disease

Professor Warwick Anderson (Sydney University)

The Kings College London Annual lecture on the History of Health and Medicine

Weds 16 April, 5pm
Anatomy Lecture Theatre 
(room K6.29, Strand Campus)
 Kings College London

While Macfarlane Burnet and others were elaborating on the idea of the immune ‘self’, patients with autoimmune diseases were doing their own ‘biographical work’, tending to the self of chronic illness experience. Burnet was aware that any theory of antibody production must explain pathologies of immunity such as autoimmune disease, where the body mounts an immunological response to its own tissues, responding to self as though it were not self. Certainly, clinical immunologists came to see autoimmune disease as the pathology of self-recognition. But through the 1960s and 1970s, the clinical hegemony of the immune self was limited. Patients with definite or putative autoimmune diseases such as systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis and chronic active hepatitis, to name just a few, rarely imagined their illness as a form of immunological hyper-reactivity or sensitivity to self. Yet at the same time, they were engaged in a related form of biographical work, incited by the experience of chronic illness. For many, chronic illness found expression in a language of loss—in particular, the loss of self—a language more meaningful and profound, if less elegant conceptually, than the discourse of self and not-self articulated in immunology. While clinical immunologists sought to restore the integrity of the body, to lessen reactivity to self, through suppressing immune responses, patients tried through social means to restore a sense of self, to reclaim or reconstitute a self displaced by chronic illness and disability. There was thus a congruence of thought styles between immunologists and sufferers of chronic illness, with both groups favouring a physiological rather than an ontological mode—without apparent intellectual contact. Using Burnet’s archive and selections from patient records and literary studies, I will discuss the pathos of these uncoordinated selfs in the 1960s and 1970s.

This event is generously sponsored by the Wellcome Trust, the KCL Principal’s new initiatives fund, and the KCL history department.

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