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Sonja Jerak-Zuiderent


Research interest

Technoscientific practices are crucial for moulding the world we live in. Attending to these often taken for granted and neglected practices, and studying the marginalities they produce in our everyday lives, is the core focus of the interdisciplinary field of feminist science and technology studies. This has also been the main concern of my research over the past decade when studying the homogenising tendencies of accountability infrastructures like performance indicators and patient safety instruments, and attending to how in the everyday working within such infrastructures, actors generate space for diversity. More recently, I have studied prostate cancer screening research practices ethnographically through the feminist STS notion of ‘matters of care’, and extend that notion to include unintentional, mundane moments of ‘good science’. Over the last two years, I have broadened my research to Latin-American contexts, by studying the development of a health guide for the Argentinian trans* community to provide health services in a non-binary gender paradigm.

My strong theoretical-methodological commitment to feminist science and technology studies, anthropology and philosophy encourages me to nurture sincere critical takes on social facts, issues, matters and things that seem to be given and self-evident. I inventively seek to specify which marginalities emerge when objectivity is assumed and ‘common’ values are taken for granted (for example, transparency, accountability or evidence). My work is empirically detailed and mostly ethnographic, with a focus on articulating the generative openings that actors find to live in difference together. I draw on generative critique as a way to study and appreciate the ‘in between’ and tend to bring in my own disconcerting experiences as a scholar to further analysis in a felt way. This is also the main concern in my book project on Generative Accountability: Comparing with Care (see for more information below).

Inspired by Alfred North Whitehead, I explore how the stories I tell as a scholar can point toward the potential to undo the fetters of the reiteration of the past and generate thinking and acting space for new futures of the worlds we live in. Paying due attention to the ideas that we use to think other ideas with, the matters we use to think other matters with, the stories we tell other stories with, I take inspiration from scholars like Donna Haraway, Susan Leigh Star, Isabelle Stengers and Helen Verran to stay with the trouble of daring to not know. I thereby live a passion for feminist science studies and anthropology interweaving love for theory with an authentic sensibility for ethnographic research.

Current research

Together with Teun Zuiderent-Jerak I have started a research project on Trans* Health Guides as Doing Human Rights: Activism, Evidence, and Standardizing from the Zero Point. Our starting point was the Ley de Identidad de Género that had been unanimously passed by the Argentinian senate in 2012. This law defines gender identity as “the inner and individual gender experience as each person feels it.” Citizens are free to choose their gender and alter their official documents accordingly without medical, administrative, or legal gatekeeping. This law aims at reducing human rights violations against the Argentinian trans* community that faces an average life-expectancy of 37 years. Treatment to meet the gender experience through bodily modifications – covered by the Plan Médico Obligatorio, the national health plan – no longer aims at a transition to ‘the other sex’, but can result in a wider variety of bodies. Developing a health guide to standardize such care raises the question how to translate clinical evidence and other knowledge that is replete with biological binaries into a human rights-oriented non-binary understanding. We study ethnographically the development and use of this health guide as a standard for trans* human rights and show how such guides need to radically rethink evidence, including reclassifying ‘side-effects’ as ‘effects’. Our findings so far show that, where ‘the Zero Point’ between binaries for Leigh Star was important for ‘holding the tension’ individually, that seems too much to ask of a community under threat of huge oppression – including murder. The Argentinian trans* health guide can however, by extension of Star’s work, be seen as an attempt at ‘standardizing from the zero point’, making the work of holding the tension a collective, generative project.

Ongoing research

Another ongoing research project revolves around questions on how care affects and is affected by the scientific practices and the imaginaries of (techno)science in medicine. I am ethnographically studying how biomedical knowledge and evidence gets produced and reproduced in research and diagnostics practices on prostate cancer and which implications/consequences this has on our practice and understanding of care. The research is part of a larger Swedish Research Council Distinguished Young Researcher Grant funded project entitled ‘Constant Torment. Discursive Contours of the Aging Prostate.’ The main investigator of that project is Senior Lecturer Ericka Johnson. My colleagues on this project are looking at the cultural and historical constructions of the prostate; the medical discourses, which enact the prostate as a discrete anatomical object; and on how the prostate is known and invoked in its absence, after surgical removal.

On Generative Accountability

In this book project I challenge the taken for grantedness of our understanding of accountability. My ethnographic research on the development of quality and safety devices such as performance indicators, critical incidence reporting and guidelines in healthcare and how these relate to notions of ‘good care,’ instantiate that the prevailing arguments and stories on accountability in healthcare practices are not able to acknowledge the efforts of healthcare professionals to provide accountable care. I show that accountability and care are both highly circumstantial, emerging and relational notions, and that it is not clear-cut who or what cares or accounts for what, whom, where, and how. Taking this on-the-ground finding theoretically seriously I suggest the notion of generative accountability instead.  I show how paying due attention to the generative interweaving of accounting and caring, that is, to the narrative work of care professionals to creatively reconnect care experiences, observations, records and relations generates accountability with care.



Broadly based in Science and Technology Studies, I did my PhD at the Institute of Health, Policy and Management at the Erasmus University in Rotterdam following the Netherlands Graduate School of Science, Technology and Modern Culture (WTMC).

I also hold a MA in Social and Political Sciences (extended with Political Economy, Literature and History - University of Cologne, Germany) and a MA in Spanish Translation (University of Sevilla, Spain). Furthermore, I have been working at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies in Cologne assisting F. W. Scharpf.



Peer-reviewed articles and book chapters

Jerak-Zuiderent, Sonja and Teun Zuiderent-Jerak (invited to submit). Generative Collectives in Argentinian Care Trans*Formations: An Exercise in Traveling to Chivilcoy and Back. Tapuya: Latin American Science, Technology and Society.

Jerak-Zuiderent, Sonja (2015). Keeping Open by Re-imagining Laughter and Fear. The Sociological Review 63 (4): 897-921.

Jerak-Zuiderent, Sonja (2015). Accountability from Somewhere and for Someone: Relating with Care. Science as Culture 24 (4): 412-435.

Jerak-Zuiderent, Sonja (2012). Certain Uncertainties: Modes of Patient Safety in Healthcare. Social Studies of Science 42(5): 732-752.

Jerak-Zuiderent, Sonja and Roland Bal (2011). ‘Locating the Worths of Performance Indicators: Performing Transparencies and Accountabilities in Health Care’, in: Ann Sætnan & Heidi Lomell & Svein Hammer (eds.), By the Very Act of Counting – The Mutual Construction of Statistics and Society (London/New York: Routledge):  224-242.

Pollitt, Christopher, Stephen Harrison, George Dowswell, Sonja Jerak-Zuiderent, Roland Bal (2010). Performance Regimes in Health Care: Institutions, Critical Junctures and the Logic of Escalation in England and the Netherlands. Evaluation 16(1): 13-39.


Professional Publications
Jerak-Zuiderent, Sonja (2012). Narratieve vormen van verantwoording in de ouderenzorg - zorgen voor het onverantwoordbare? Rapport for Actiz. Rotterdam: iBMG.

Zuiderent-Jerak, Teun, Sonja Jerak-Zuiderent, Hester van Bovenkamp, Siok Swan Tan, S., Leona Hakkart-van Rooijen, Werner Brouwer en Roland Bal (2011). Variatie in Richtlijnen. Wat is het probleem? Rotterdam: iBMG.

Zuiderent-Jerak, Teun, Sonja Jerak-Zuiderent en Roland Bal (2010). Veiligheidsnormen in Richtlijnen: Kansen en valkuilen voor het besturen van kwaliteit. Rotterdam: iBMG.

De Bont, Antoinette, Sonja Jerak-Zuiderent, Teun Zuiderent-Jerak, Roland Bal and Pauline Meurs (2010). Governance of Patient Safety. A Background Study for Dutch Inspectorate of Health Care. Rotterdam: iBMG.

De Bont, Antoinette, Sonja Jerak-Zuiderent, Teun Zuiderent-Jerak en Bal, R. (2009). Veiligheid in de zorg: Achtergrondstudie bij de Staat van de Gezondheidszorg. Rotterdam: iBMG.

De Bont, Antoinette, Sonja Jerak-Zuiderent, Marleen de Mul and Dorien Zwart (2009). Questions about Safety. A Report for the Dutch Ministry of Health. Rotterdam: iBMG.

Duin, van Trudie, Sonja Jerak-Zuiderent and Roland Bal (2009). Meer tijd voor triage. Medisch Contact 64(16), 705 – 708.

Stolk, Elly, De Bont, Antoinette, Poley, M., Jerak-Zuiderent, Sonja, Stroet, M., Rutten, Frans F.H. (2008). International Comparison of Systems to Determine Entitlements to Medical Specialist Care: Performance and Organizational issues  (eds.), Institute for Medical Technology Assessment / Institute of Health Policy and Management. Gezondheidszorg: Rotterdam, ISBN: 08.104

Jerak-Zuiderent, Sonja (2007). ‘Germany’, in: Chris Ham (ed.), Enhancing Engagement in Medical Leadership: A Rapid Survey of International Experience. Birmingham, UK: Health Services Management Centre, University of Birmingham and NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement.

Jerak-Zuiderent, Sonja (2006). Common Challenges – Different Solutions? Pragmatic and Feasible Piecemealing Embedded in Flexible Long-term Visions. Overview Paper Prepared for the International Quality Improvement Exchange Conference, Duin & Kruidberg, The Netherlands, 7-9 December.









assistant professor

Telephone: 013-28 19 98
Fax: 013-28 44 61

E-mail: sonja.jerak-zuiderent@liu.se

Department of Thematic Studies -
Technology and Social Change
Linköping university
SE-581 83 Linköping

Project activities


Technology and Social Change is an interdisciplinary research unit focusing on how social actors create and use technology, and how technical change is woven together with cultural patterns, daily life, politics, energy systems, learning, and the economy in history and society.

About Tema

The objective for Tema - The Department of Thematic Studies is to pursue excellent research and education at undergraduate and advanced levels relevant to society.

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Last updated: Fri Sep 29 19:30:37 CEST 2017