Cognitive Fluctuation, Distributed Sensing, and the Marking of Illness

Mel Chen in the Citizen Sense “Sensing Practices” seminar series co-hosted with the {???}

In this talk I consider a number of intersecting phenomena: the often feminized exceptionality of “brain fog” and other cognitive departures from expected temporalities, overlapping with more temporally durative (or unexcusable by other means) “chronic illness”; the narration of biochemical transactions in relation to bodies at various scales; and the affectively rich play in geopolitical adjudications between “toxicity” and “intoxication.” Underneath all of these considerations lies a series of investments that could be understood as racially “tuned,” an expression of my interest in the hidden intersections of race and disability.


Mel Y. Chen is Associate Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies at the University of California, Berkeley and the Director of Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Sexual Culture. Chen’s Animacies: Biopolitics, Racial Mattering, and Queer Affect (Duke University Press, 2012, Alan Bray Memorial Award), explores questions of racialization, queering, disability, and affective economies in animate and inanimate “life” and “nonlife.” Further writing appears in Women’s Studies Quarterly, Discourse, Women in Performance, Australian Feminist Studies, Amerasia, and the Journal of Literary and Cultural Disability Studies. Along with Jasbir K. Puar, Chen serves as series coeditor for a book series at Duke called “Anima.” Chen sits on the board of directors for the Society for Disability Studies.

Sensing Practices

The Citizen Sense research group is hosting a year-long seminar series on “Sensing Practices.” The series attends to questions about how sensing and practice emerge, take hold, and form attachments across environmental, material, political and aesthetic concerns. Rather than take “the senses” as a fixed starting point, this seminar series instead considers how sensing-as-practice is differently articulated in relation to technologies of environmental monitoring, data gathered for evidentiary claims, the formation of citizens, and more-than-human entanglements. How might these expanded approaches to sensing practices recast engagements with experience, and reconfigure explorations of practice-based research?