Anne Pollock



After Robot, Redux

The first time that I came to Johannesburg to do field work, I wrote a blog post about getting around on the semi-formal public transit here, in which I found a common phrase evocative: to communicate to the driver “please let me out after the next traffic light,” a passenger says “after robot.”  As a professor at a tech school, I couldn’t help but hear that phrase out of context.  I wondered at that time what would be ahead for me, after robot.

On this trip to Johannesburg, I hear the phrase “after robot” a lot less.   Read More »



How to grapple with changes in Big Pharma?

Seeing the front page of the New York Times Drug Firms Face Billions in Losses as Patents Expire” the same week as my article “Transforming the Critique of Big Pharma” came out in BioSocieties,  I am struck by the amount of common ground.  NYT‘s Duff Wilson mentions many of the same challenges facing Big Pharma generally (and Pfizer in particular) that I discuss: expensive–and failed–attempts to find new blockbusters to replace those going off patent, the increasing role of generics, the huge fines and regulatory restrictions Big Pharma is facing, and more.

And yet where our common ground diverges is precisely the most important aspect of why it is important for academics and activists interested in Big Pharma to pay attention to the changes.  Read More »



The Scott Sisters and American Biological Citizenship

Sisters Jamie and Gladys Scott have now finally been released from a Mississippi prison, after serving 16 years of their double life sentences for their role in a robbery in which no one was injured.  Governor Haley Barbour suspended their sentences on the extraordinary condition that Gladys donate a kidney to her ailing sister Jamie.  The sisters’ release is long overdue and worth celebrating, a testament to the activism by both diffuse internet communities and mainstream civil rights organizations like the NAACP.  Although the condition that the governor has put on their suspended sentences is extremely unusual, it is a revealing site for considering the contours of biological citizenship in the United States more broadly.

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After Robot, On Embarking on a New Project in Johannesburg

Because I hate to drive, I get around Johannesburg by doing something almost inappropriate for someone of my class (professional) and race (white): I take the informal public transportation.  The vehicles are called “taxis,” but they are minibuses that operate along more or less set routes, picking up and dropping off passengers along the way. Passengers pass money up to the driver, making change in batches along the way.  When they are ready to get off, the most common call passengers make is “After Robot.”  With a beautifully rolled “r,” they are asking the driver to pull over after the traffic light.  But for someone from a tech school, the phrase is thrillingly evocative.  What, after all, comes after robot?

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Anna Deavere Smith did not let me down easy

In New York City amid the “holiday” bustle, I decided to take in a topical play: Anna Deavere Smith’s “Let Me Down Easy.” A fan of Deavere Smith’s work since her LA Riots piece, I was curious about the promise of a human-scale rendering of the health care debates. But very little of the play is really about anything so pragmatic. Read More »

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