Evan Fisher


Post-doctoral researcher


I recently completed my PhD in Science and Technology Studies at PSL University in the Center for the Sociology of Innovation (CSI) under the advisorship of Antoine Hennion. My dissertation is an ethnographic monograph of the French NGO Doctors Without Borders (Médecins Sans Frontières, MSF). It provides an account of how humanitarian practitioners manage to tinker together the sometimes-incompatible goals of a seemingly simple mission: medical assistance to the vulnerable around the world. To this end, I asked how MSF selects those it aims to assist. My response entailed the close description of the instrumentation of triage: the problematic processes of developing and using tools that support the reflexive choice of beneficiaries around the globe. This led me to develop the concept of humanitarian presence – which gave the title to my dissertation – meant to address the problems posed by MSF’s global physical extension, its modes of relating to its beneficiaries through an ethics of care, and its technologies of intervention into governing bodies and the bodies of the governed.

From October 2020 to March 2021, I participated as a post-doctoral researcher in setting up the Institut Covid-19 Ad Memoriam research centre under the auspices of the World Health Organization and the Development Research Institute (IRD). Working under the guidance of Laëtitia Atlani-Duault, anthropologist and member of the French government’s Covid-19 Scientific Council, I developed and tested a research protocol to be used by social scientists to collect and archive the institutional memory of the Covid-19 pandemic in France. I also participated in developing an online platform for collecting and archiving the memories kept of pandemic by ordinary French citizens from across the country.

In April 2021, I began a post-doc in the GEODE laboratory in Toulouse working on the BENDYS research project on the last European Old-Growth Forests in the Pyrenees and the Carpathian Mountains. With Ruppert Vimal as my advisor, I have two main tasks. First, I am conducting a literature review in work in the environmental and life sciences on European Old-Growth Forests (OGF), with an eye to the historical narratives that the diverse disciplines working on OGFs put forward. Second, I am conducting an ethnographic survey with an team of environmental and life scientists (biogeochemistry, ecology, biology, geology), social scientists (sociology, anthropology, geography, history, archaeology, STS), as well as forest managers in France and Romania, on the links between the production of scientific expertise and forest management policy and practice.