In “Materialized Oppression in Medical Tools and Technologies”, we show how oppression can be inscribed in medical devices. We consider oximeters and spirometers, drawing heavily on the work of anthropologist Amy Moran-Thomas and historian Lundy Braun. Both devices encode racial biases: oximeters because they do not correct for race, and spirometers because they do. We zoom out from these particular devices to examine a wide range of tools and technologies, and we build a theoretical framework that covers not only race but other axes of oppression: gender, ability, class, etc.
We are inspired by the peer commentaries and the guest editorial, and we are grateful to the contributors for engaging with our work and sharing their expertise. Their responses to our target article advance our understanding in three directions. First, a set of responses contextualize our framework within the histories of medicine, bioethics, and science and technology studies. Second, a set of responses provide additional examples of oppressive medical tools and technologies: not only material artifacts like oximeters and spirometers, but also spatial environments like inpatient psychiatric units, and cognitive niches comprised of digital technologies like electronic medical records and medical data classifications. Third, a set of responses propose countermeasures: operationalizing anti-oppressive practices for device design and testing; mapping the complex causal relationships involved in real-world problems; and repairing the harms done by materialized oppression through racism-conscious praxis. We reply to these three sets of responses—respectively, the “past, present, and future” of oppressive medical objects and spaces—in what follows.