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      Social Science and Neuroscience beyond Interdisciplinarity: Experimental Entanglements

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          Abstract

          This article is an account of the dynamics of interaction across the social sciences and neurosciences. Against an arid rhetoric of ‘interdisciplinarity’, it calls for a more expansive imaginary of what experiment – as practice and ethos – might offer in this space. Arguing that opportunities for collaboration between social scientists and neuroscientists need to be taken seriously, the article situates itself against existing conceptualizations of these dynamics, grouping them under three rubrics: ‘critique’, ‘ebullience’ and ‘interaction’. Despite their differences, each insists on a distinction between sociocultural and neurobiological knowledge, or does not show how a more entangled field might be realized. The article links this absence to the ‘regime of the inter-’, an ethic of interdisciplinarity that guides interaction between disciplines on the understanding of their pre-existing separateness. The argument of the paper is thus twofold: (1) that, contra the ‘regime of the inter-’, it is no longer practicable to maintain a hygienic separation between sociocultural webs and neurobiological architecture; (2) that the cognitive neuroscientific experiment, as a space of epistemological and ontological excess, offers an opportunity to researchers, from all disciplines, to explore and register this realization.

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          Most cited references 9

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          Brainhood, anthropological figure of modernity.

          If personhood is the quality or condition of being an individual person, "brainhood" could name the quality or condition of being a brain. This ontological quality would define the "cerebral subject" that has, at least in industrialized and highly medicalized societies, gained numerous social inscriptions since the mid-20th century. This article explores the historical development of brainhood. It suggests that the brain is necessarily the location of the "modern self," and that, consequently, the cerebral subject is the anthropological figure inherent to modernity (at least insofar as modernity gives supreme value to the individual as autonomous agent of choice and initiative). It further argues that the ideology of brainhood impelled neuroscientific investigation much more than it resulted from it, and sketches how an expanding constellation of neurocultural discourses and practices embodies and sustains that ideology.
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            The social life of the brain: Neuroscience in society

            Neuroscience is viewed by a range of actors and institutions as a powerful means of creating new knowledge about our selves and societies. This article documents the shifts in expertise and identities potentially being propelled by neuroscientific research. It details the framing and effects of neuroscience within several social domains, including education and mental health, discussing some of the intellectual and professional projects it has animated therein (such as neuroethics). The analysis attends to the cultural logics by which the brain is sometimes made salient in society; simultaneously, it points towards some of parameters of the territory within which the social life of the brain plays out. Instances of societal resistance and agnosticism are discussed, which may render problematic sociological research on neuroscience in society that assumes the universal import of neuroscientific knowledge (as either an object of celebration or critique). This article concludes with reflections on how sociotechnical novelty is produced and ascribed, and the implications of this.
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              Enculturing brains through patterned practices.

              Recent findings in neuroscience have shown differential patterns in brain activity in response to similar stimuli and activities across cultural and social differences. This calls for a framework to understand how such differences may come to be implemented in brains and neurons. Based on strands of research in social anthropology, we argue that human practices are characterized by particular patterns, and that participating in these patterns orders how people perceive and act in particular group- and context-specific ways. This then leads to a particular patterning of neuronal processes that may be detected using e.g. brain imaging methods. We illustrate this through (a) a classical example of phoneme perception (b) recent work on performance in experimental game play. We then discuss these findings in the light of predictive models of brain function. We argue that a 'culture as patterned practices' approach obviates a rigid nature-culture distinction, avoids the problems involved in conceptualizing 'culture' as a homogenous grouping variable, and suggests that participating as a competent participant in particular practices may affect both the subjective (first person) experience and (third person) objective measures of behavior and brain activity. Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Theory Cult Soc
                Theory Cult Soc
                TCS
                sptcs
                Theory, Culture & Society
                SAGE Publications (Sage UK: London, England )
                0263-2764
                1460-3616
                January 2015
                January 2015
                : 32
                : 1
                : 3-32
                Affiliations
                King’s College London
                Durham University
                Author notes
                Des Fitzgerald. Email: des.fitzgerald@ 123456kcl.ac.uk
                Article
                10.1177_0263276414537319
                10.1177/0263276414537319
                4425296
                © The Author(s) 2014 Reprints and permissions: sagepub.co.uk/journalsPermissions.nav

                This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License ( http://www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/) which permits any use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access page ( http://www.uk.sagepub.com/aboutus/openaccess.htm).

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