Seminar | A sociology of antimicrobial mis-use and resistance


In the search for solutions to the global problem of antimicrobial resistance, there has been a tendency to focus on ‘how’ we should behave differently (e.g. be more judicious, follow guidelines for best practice) rather than developing a deeper understanding of ‘why’ we act in the ways we do in relation to antimicrobials. In this talk, drawing on data from across metropolitan, regional and remote hospitals in Australia, I outline a broad sociological analysis of the interpersonal, cultural, political and economic conditions which underpin current ‘mis-use’ of antimicrobials in the health sector (and potentially beyond). I position antimicrobial mis-use, and ultimately antimicrobial resistance, as a deeply social, cultural, political and economic problem, and argue that solutions will require a sophisticated understanding of these dimensions of everyday life. In addition, I outline how an understanding of ‘the social’ can be implemented in institutions to improve use of existing antimicrobials – using surgery as an example.


Speaker: Alex Broom, University of New South Wales, Sydney

Date: 28 June 2018

Time: 12:45 – 14:00

Venue: LG24, Keppel Street


This seminar will be available to watch live, or watch online afterwards.



Alex Broom is Professor of Sociology at the Centre for Social Research in Health, The University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney. He is recognised as an international leader in the sociology of health and illness. His current focus is on developing critical analyses of the social dynamics of cancer and palliative care and the global challenge of antimicrobial resistance across contexts and cultures. He has published over 230 publications including 14 books, and his recent books include Dying: A Social Perspective on the End of Life (Routledge, 2015), Bodies and Suffering: Emotions and Relations of Care (Routledge 2017, with Ana Dragojlovic), and, Survivorship: A Sociology of Cancer in Everyday Life (Routledge, forthcoming).

He leads a program of research on the social dynamics of antimicrobial resistance, exploring such things as the role of habit and norms (Social Science and Medicine2014), inter-professional relations (Social Science and Medicine2015), institutionalised praxis (Qualitative Health Research2016), defensive medicine (Qualitative Health Research2017), and core-periphery relations (e.g. Health and Place2017) as shaping the capacity of health services to respond to this emerging global health crisis. For example, his recent work on the mediation of antibiotic use across the professions utilised sociologist Pierre Bourdieu’s ideas of habitus (Social Science and Medicine2014), Anselm’s Strauss’s negotiated order (Social Science and Medicine2015), Stovel’s work on brokerage (Qualitative Health Research2016), and Marx’s work on commodity fetishism (Qualitative Health Research2017), to advance a critical sociology of infection management in practice and address the social dimensions of antimicrobial mis-use and antimicrobial resistance. He an investigator on over AU$8 million in competitive research grants, and currently holds Honorary/Visiting Professorial positions at King’s College London (Department of Global Health and Social Medicine), The University of Vienna (Department of Political Science) and The University of Queensland (UQ Social Science & UQ Medicine).