Samuel Taylor-Alexander wrote his PhD in Medical Anthropology at the ANU. His dissertation explored the coproduction of medicine in politics in Mexican reconstructive surgery. With increasing neoliberal reform and the strong place of modernity and development in the national imaginary, Mexico provided a unique stage for examining how the emergence of new forms of politically charged, experimental medical practice are related to global trends in medical provision. This allowed Samuel to provide a novel reading of normalisation and biomedicine, demonstrating how things such as the of standardisation of clinical records and the promotion of molecular understandings of pathology underlie broader attempts to align bodies, health practices and the nation-state with nascent understandings of norms and the normal.
Samuel examined these themes further with his first monograph On Face Transplantation: Life and Ethics in Experimental Biomedicine (Palgrave Macmillan 2014). Drawing together patient accounts, analysis of medical publication and interviews with surgeons and bureaucrats, this books demonstrates that what is being remade in the burgeoning medical field of face transplantation is not only the lives of patients, but also the very ways that state institutions, surgeons, and families make sense of rights, claims for inclusion, and life itself.
Samuel’s second monograph is forthcoming (2016) and expands his dissertation research to provide a novel reading of an uncontroversial medical practice – craniofacial reconstructive surgery. In demonstrating the entwined normalisation of individuals, clinical practice, and the nation-state, Normalizing Biomedicine: Reconstructive Surgery and Global Mexico examines a number of practices that traverse national boundaries, providing unique insights into the politics of biomedicine in a country renowned for social and political instability: These range from patient families’ negotiations of the competing discourses inherent to reconstructive surgery in Mexico and the contestation surrounding of modes of providing care to the rural poor, to the normalisation of clinical research and the promotion of “bioethics culture” in Mexico. Paying attention to how local actors – patients, bureaucrats, medical practitioners – constitute the reconstructive surgery by establishing relationships with national and international agencies, this book demonstrates how new norms are coproduced through everyday enactments of care.
Previous to joining the Mason Institute, Samuel was Professional Teaching Fellow in the Department of Anthropology at the University of Auckland and a Doctoral Fellow in the Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard University, the Kennedy School of Government.