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ANNA KIRKLAND, University of Michigan

  • When: April 2, 2014, 12 pm
  • Where: ABF Woods Conference Room, 750 N. Lake Shore Drive, 4th Floor, Lakeside, Chicago IL 60611

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Knowing Vaccine Injury

Anna Kirkland, University of Michigan

            What is a vaccine injury, and how do we know it when we see it? Who recognizes vaccine injuries, and through what experiences, institutions, practices, and systems of knowledge? In this talk, I present work from my book manuscript on the law and politics of vaccine injury and vaccine safety in the contemporary U.S. Coming to recognize and name a vaccine-related adverse event (or what I term a vaccine injury) is something a wide range of experts and activists do from different perspectives and locations. I discuss the ways that parents, doctors, lawyers, federal safety regulators, vaccine compensation court judges, organized activists, and medical officers who screen petitions for vaccine injury compensation define both vaccine injuries and what counts as sufficient knowledge about them. Understanding the knowledge politics of vaccine injury helps us to better conceptualize the persistent difficulty of feeling safe—and being reassured by the government—when the cause of harm is highly disputed and adjudicated in multiple places.

Anna Kirkland is Associate Professor of Women’s Studies and holds a courtesy appointment in Political Science at the University of Michigan. She earned her J.D. (2001) and Ph.D. (Jurisprudence and Social Policy, 2003) from the University of California, Berkeley. Her research has focused on the interactions between identity categories, discrimination, and health. Primarily situated in the law and society tradition, Professor Kirkland also works within science studies, disability studies, and gender studies using theoretical and interpretive methods. She is the author of Fat Rights: Dilemmas of Difference and Personhood (NYU 2008) and co-editor with Jonathan Metzl of Against Health: How Health Became the New Morality (NYU 2010). Professor Kirkland is currently working on a new book on politics of health and knowledge as seen through the federal vaccine safety and injury compensation system in the contemporary U.S., and has recently published “Credibility Battles in the Autism Litigation,” Social Studies of Science (April 2012) and “The Legitimacy of Vaccine Critics: What’s Left after Autism?,” Journal of Health Policy, Politics and Law (February 2012).


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