Journal Club

In the past, Nexus members have met to discuss texts and other materials of interest. Below is a list of past journal club meetings. Nexus will not be hosting journal club in 2017.

Friday 27th May, 2016, 10am – 12pm

Associate Professor Catherine Mills will be giving a presentation entitled Seeing, feeling, doing: a critique of mandatory ultrasound laws. She is an ARC Future Fellow in the Centre for Human Bioethics in the School of Philosophical, Historical & International Studies.


In recent years, a number of US states have adopted laws that require pregnant women to have an ultrasound examination, and be shown images of their fetus, prior to undergoing a pregnancy termination. While there is a some critical literature on such laws, there has been almost no philosophical engagement with them, and nor has there been any attempt to unpack one of the basic presumptions of such laws: that seeing one’s fetus changes the ways in which one might act in regards to it, including in terms of the (ethical) decision about whether to allow it to live or not. However, this presumption raises significant questions, specifically about the relation between visibility, emotion and ethics. In this paper I elaborate these questions and begin to address them, especially through recent philosophical literature on empathy.

Catherine has suggested two accompanying readings.

Stephenson, N., McLeod, K. & Mills, C. (forthcoming) Ambiguous encounters, uncertain foetuses: Women’s experiences of obstetric ultrasound, Feminist Review.

Slote, M. (2007) The Ethics of Care and Empathy, London: Routledge. pp. 17-20.

Friday 29th April, 2016, 10am – 12pm.

Evie Kendal will be giving a presentation entitled The use of popular culture in medical and health education


Why students opt to pursue medicine as a career has been the subject of much scholarly debate. Historically, theorists like G. S. Becker (1962) and Bernard Lentz and David Laband (1989) have attributed many cases to “human capital formation” within the family unit.[i] To summarise Lentz and Laband’s argument, the children of doctors experience an intergenerational transfer of career-specific human capital that a) motivates them to voluntarily pursue a career in medicine, and b) better prepares them for pursuing this course of study. While it may still be true that there are a disproportionate number of doctors’ children successfully applying to medical school in the 21st century, as in the 20th, the purpose of this project was to engage with other motivating factors that inspire students to enrol in medicine and allied health degrees. Specifically, we were interested in exploring the impact of popular culture on the perception of medical studies and careers, and whether this too may motivate and prepare future doctors and allied health professionals. If accepting that a parent can serve as a role model for a future doctor, it seems reasonable to hypothesise that a fictional character may function as a substitute role model for students who may not have doctors or health professionals in their families. Furthermore, we wanted to gauge our students’ exposure to popular medical television and their perception of its pedagogical value in medical education.

Evie has suggested two accompanying readings.
Czarny, M. et al. (2008) Medical and Nursing Students’ Television Viewing Habits: Potential Implications for Bioethics, The American Journal of Bioethics, 8(12): 1-8.
Weaver, R. & Wilson, I. (2011) Australian medical students’ perceptions of professionalism and ethics in medical television programs, BMC Medical Education, 11(50):


Friday 25th of September from 10am – 12pm

Dr. Claire Spivakovsky is giving a presentation entitled A Shadow Carceral State: Disability, Dangerousness and Civil Law


In the wake of deinstitutionalisation, a range of punitive, restrictive and coercive measures for controlling the lives of people with intellectual disabilities have emerged from civil law. This paper draws attention to one such civil measure, the Supervised Treatment Order (STO) regime in the Australian state of Victoria. Drawing on a discourse analysis of court transcripts, this paper demonstrates how during STO Tribunal Hearings, the margins of law shift and blur in two concerning ways. First, the margins of criminal and civil law converge, allowing this civil regime to become an effective mechanism for governing the lives of sex offenders with intellectual disabilities post their release from criminal justice systems. And second, the margins of law and medicine further conflate, such that the medical diagnosis of a person’s intellectual disability becomes a legal ‘diagnosis’ of that person’s innate and ongoing risk and danger to society. The paper explores the implications of these shifts in the margins of law for our understanding of people with intellectual disabilities’ engagement with civil and criminal justice systems, the fluid nature of medico-legal boundaries, and the shifting nature of civil and criminal institutional controls over time.

Friday 28th of August in Room N402

Dr Christiane Weller will be giving a presentation entitled The Art of Madness.

ABSTRACT: The paper will explore the relationship between imagination as a universal faculty of the mind and concrete material images. The universal assumption that the mind needs imagination to memorise or create absent objects—and thereby a functioning representation of ‘reality’—is to be tested from the perspective of concrete imagery, in this instance by investigating the productions of the mentally ill.

From a psychoanalytic (Lacanian) perspective the conceptualisation of a primordial signifier—the name of the father—is a necessary myth, a myth which helps to simulate or create reality, since it allows language to function at a symbolic level. The subject by acknowledging the existence of this primordial signifier can operate within the dialectics of avowal and disavowal, and can thereby navigate within an agreed-upon reality. However, when this privileged signifier is missing or foreclosed the totality of the signifying system is questioned, as it is in the case of psychosis. One might speak here of the central signal being deformed and profoundly a-symbolic, which results in the extensive modifications of all other signifiers.

I would like to discuss this assumption by drawing on various psychiatric collections of artworks and writings (Prinzhorn Collection in Heidelberg, Adolf-Wölfli Collection in Bern, Dax Centre in Melbourne, L’art brut collection in Lausanne, Overtaci Museum in Århus, Dr. Guislain Museum in Ghent) the paper will investigate the particular effects of foreclosure and a radically different (prosthetic) simulation of reality in the artistic productions of psychotic patients.

Friday 31st of July between 10am – 12pm

Dr Paula Michaels will be giving a presentation: The History of Natural Childbirth

In the 1970s “natural childbirth” was in vogue in the United States. In the country with the most medicalized maternity care in the world, mothers fought for a more woman-centered approach to childbearing. The name of French obstetrician Fernand Lamaze was synonymous with this new way of giving birth. The Lamaze method, also known as psychoprophylaxis, used patterned breathing and conscious relaxation to help women manage the pain of labor without reliance on drugs. But the method’s roots lay in the Soviet Union, where in 1951 Lamaze witnessed a birth using psychoprophylaxis. My most recent research reconstructs the surprising story of what came to be known in the US as the Lamaze method from its origins in the USSR, to its transmission to France and then to its popularization in the US. This work sits within my broader interests in the history of medicine and health, particularly in 20th century Russia and Central Asia. My earlier research focused on the development of public health in Soviet Kazakhstan as a colonial project. I am beginning to pivot back toward this early interest in the history of medicine and health in Kazakhstan with a new project titled Kazakhstan: A Nuclear History. The work analyses Kazakhstan’s nuclear encounter from the 1949 detonation of the USSR’s first nuclear bomb at the Semipalatinsk test range, through the rise of an influential antinuclear movement in the Gorbachev year, to the self-fashioning of Kazakhstan as the Muslim world’s leader in nuclear non-proliferation beginning in the 1990s.

Friday 26th of June from 10am – 12pm 

Dr Narelle Warren will be giving a presentation entitled: Reconsidering the work of care: relational dimensions of ageing and impairment


Caring for a family member or friend with serious health conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, has become increasingly common in the past few decades. This is due – at least in part – to strong preferences by health providers, advocacy groups, and community members away from institutionalised residential care. Instead, considerable efforts have been made to develop strategies to support people to remain in their homes as long as possible. Yet this shift has implications for the person living with a chronic condition, as well as for their family members. It leads to changes in daily life and social participation, which have predominantly been considered through the concept of ‘caregiver burden’ (Martinez-Martin et al., 2007; Thommessen et al., 2002 and many others). While this rightly highlights the importance of carer wellbeing, it has simultaneously and unfairly led people to think about caring in negative terms. But, for the most part, it is difficult for family members who are involved in the provision of care to separate the ‘caring for’ a person with illness from the ‘caring about’ someone they love. This difference is subtle but important. ‘Caring for’ is the work of care: managing medications and medical appointments, helping someone move around the home, personal care (showering, nursing, etc), providing transportation, ensuring meals are provided or eaten, and so forth. ‘Caring about’ captures the “give and take” of everyday relationships, and is an attempt to capture the fondness and love that family members (and friends) extend to one another. In this presentation, I will outline my very preliminary musings on these ideas, and argue for a new conversation about care, one which allows for greater consideration of the relational complexities than what is offered by an exclusive focus only on burden.

Friday, the 29th of May, 10am – 12pm

Associate Professor Robert Sparrow will be giving a presentation entitled “Ethics, eugenics, and diversity.”


The idea that a world in which everyone was born “perfect” would be a world in which something valuable was missing often comes up in debates about the ethics of technologies of prenatal testing and Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD). This thought plays an important role in the “disability critique” of prenatal testing. However, the idea that human genetic variation is an important good with significant benefits for society at large is also embraced by a wide range of figures writing in the bioethics literature, including some who are notoriously hostile to the idea that we should not select against disability. In this presentation I will suggest that this powerful intuition is more problematic than is generally recognised, especially where the price of diversity is the well-being of particular individuals.

Friday, the 24th of April, 10am – 12pm

Tony Barnett and Kate Seear are each giving a presentation. The title of their presentation is Addiction in Science and Law: Complexity and Simplification. 

Bio: Tony Barnett, PhD candidate

Having completed his Honours project entitled “The Clinical Impact of the Brain Disease Model of Alcohol and Drug Addiction: Exploring the Attitudes of Community-Based AOD Clinicians in Australia” in 2014, Tony recently commenced his PhD in Psychology at Monash under the supervision of Dr Adrian Carter.  Tony’s PhD thesis explores clinician attitudes towards and acceptance of addictionneuroscience and emerging neuroscientific technologies.  Adopting a critical perspective, Tony’s research aims to elucidate the potential positive and negative clinical impact that emerging neuroscientific technologies may have on clinical practice and the individual drug user.


Following advances in neuroscientific innovations and neuroimaging, alcohol and drug (AOD) addiction is increasingly being framed in terms of neurobiology; a focus that has given rise to a ‘brain disease’ model of addiction.  However, the question must be asked: is this a form a reductionism, an oversimplification, of a complex, multidimensional phenomenon?  Drawing upon the work of Annemarie Mol and John Law, Tony reflects on the role of addiction neuroscience and its potential oversimplifying effects within clinical practice.  Referencing interviews previously conducted with community-based AOD clinicians in Melbourne, Tony discusses the potential impact of addiction neuroscience not only for clinical practice, but also for the ‘addict’ subjected to the medical (or perhaps ‘neuromolecular’) gaze.  Finally, Tony discusses how his PhD thesis further explores these themes along with opportunities for research in the future.

Bio: Dr Kate Seear, Senior Lecturer in Law

Kate is a practicing lawyer and Senior Lecturer in the Faculty of Law at Monash. Her research examines the management and constitution ofaddiction, alcohol and other drug use in different contexts and the intersections between harm reduction and the law. Kate’s current research examines several different areas of law where addiction features. This work considers the role of law, policy and service provision in magnifying, generating or exacerbating harms that are ordinarily understood to be the effects of drugs ‘themselves’.  


As social problems of all kinds prove less amenable to change than is sometimes suggested by the reductionist demands of orthodox positivist approaches, theory and method have turned to ways of articulating the elusive, uncertain and complex. The work of science and technology studies scholars Annemarie Mol and John Law (2002) has highlighted the important connection between complexity and simplification. Both Mol and Law have urged researchers to attend to processes of simplification and to identify the political consequences of such.  Like science, the law is often replete – perhaps unavoidably – with processes of simplification. These processes often generate unintended consequences that are rarely acknowledged or critically examined. In this presentation, I consider the crucial role of specific legal rules and procedures in shaping approaches to addiction, and outline some of the stigmatising and marginalising effects of these processes. I will conclude with a discussion of some of the implications of this for understandings of drugs, ‘addiction’ and drug ‘effects’.

Friday 27th March, 2015, 10am – 12pm

Axel Fliethmann will be giving a short presentation entitled Media philology and medical discourse. The presentation will include introductory remarks about the text for discussion by the group.

The chapters for discussion are taken from the book

van de Vall, R. & Zwijnenberg, R. (2009) The Body Within: Art, Medicine and Visualization, Brill: London.

The Chapters that will be discussed are

1. van de Vall, R. (2009) Introduction, in van de Vall, R. & Zwijnenberg, R. The Body Within: Art, Medicine and Visualization, Brill: London, 1-15.

2. Hagner, M. (2009) The Mind at Work: The Visual Representation of Cerebral Processes, in van de Vall, R. & Zwijnenberg, R. The Body Within: Art, Medicine and Visualization, Brill: London, pp. 68-90.
Journal Club Archive