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Use your body to understand the environment Use your body to understand the environment: On the environmental knowledge of electro- and chemico-hypersensitive persons





National audience For this colloquium, we propose to study the trajectories after which some people diagnose themselves as hypersensitive to electromagnetic fields or chemicals. This process involves a radical transformation of their representations of the world, as well as a complete reorganisation of their daily lives. The development and verification of environmental knowledge plays a crucial role. We therefore propose to describe in detail the various techniques used by these people in order to produce new knowledge, e.g. the search for technical and medical information, simultaneous monitoring of their environment and somatic perceptions, the use of measuring instruments and practical know-how to reveal the presence of chemicals or electromagnetic fields in their environment, the carrying out of blind experiments, socialisation of their interpretations by sharing their disease stories, etc. We also propose to analyse as these are assessed by future hypersensitive people: when are they considered convincing enough to bring about a change in their representations and lifestyles? How do they reason and what types of evidence do they favour? By characterising their epistemology, we will pay particular attention to the interaction between four aspects of the disease experience: perceptions, cognitions, emotions, and imagination. We will also explain the issues at stake. Our presentation will be based on interviews with 60 people who are hypersensitive between 2012 and 2014, observations made at community gatherings, and messages that have circulated on several mailing lists.

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