The biosocial event: responding to innovation in the life sciences

Lee, Nick and Motzkau, Johanna (2012). The biosocial event: responding to innovation in the life sciences. Sociology, 46(3) pp. 426–441.



Innovation in the life sciences calls for reflection on how sociologies separate and relate life processes and social processes. To this end we introduce the concept of the ‘biosocial event’. Some life processes and social processes have more mutual relevance than others. Some of these relationships are more negotiable than others. We show that levels of relevance and negotiability are not static but can change within existing relationships. Such changes, or biosocial events, lie at the heart of much unplanned biosocial novelty and much deliberate innovation. We illustrate and explore the concept through two examples; meningitis infection and epidemic, and the use of sonic ‘teen deterrents’ in urban settings. We then consider its value in developing sociological practice oriented to critically constructive engagement with innovation in the life sciences.

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