Research Interests

  • Anthropology of medical and life sciences (immunology)
  • Science and technology studies
  • Biopolitics, innovation and law
  • Public and mental health
  • Lifecycles and intergenerationality
  • Ritual, religion and death
  • Person, enskilment and emotion
  • Romani and Gypsy Studies
  • Informal economies

Contested Legitimacy of Regenerative vs. Established Biomedicine in Brazil

Postdoc Project

How does the development of a new therapeutic model, whose potential emergence threatens the hegemony of an already established biomedical model, affect, and how is it affected by law, science and society? To anchor this question in a particular context, I conduct an anthropological study into how scientific innovation, established biomedicine and informal health care co-exist and interface in contemporary Brazil, and how their relations are mediated by legal institutions and other actors. For it, I delineate and explore ‘life assemblages’ related and interconnected through the use of ‘immunostimulant drugs’ for the treatment of autoimmune diseases, which are conventionally treated with ‘immunosuppressant drugs’ worldwide.

My central case study is the ‘anti-brucellic vaccine’ (VAB) – a drug that was produced in Brazil and largely used by patients against several autoimmune diseases. After more than 10 years seeking to become authorized by medico-legal authorities, the VAB remained an object of controversies and was recently taken as basis for the development of a further biotechnological innovation called Complex of Essential Amino Acids (CAE) that is currently experiencing a process of approval. So much so that it is currently commercialized as a ‘manipulated/experimental drug’ while clinical tests are running in parallel.

Inspired by Actor-Network-Theory, I follow the VAB/CAE in order to re-trace associations and map the main relations that have constituted it as a biotechnological innovative agent and, simultaneously, as an object of judicial dispute and regulation. Related to that I compare the VAB/CAE case to other cases of circulation and regulation of immunostimulant drugs as contested innovations in Brazil, such as the synthetic phosphoethanolamine. In so doing, I weave an ethnography of the VAB/CAE out of a multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork through participant observation (including autoethnography) and, complementarily, digital methods and documentary research.

It seems that, from an international perspective, the VAB/CAE case reveals how research into the production, circulation and regulation of immunostimulant therapies for autoimmune diseases in Brazil can provide critical insights into the emergence of regenerative medicine as a transnational process. Moreover, whilst shedding light on legal conflicts between established regulatory science and challenging innovative biotechnologies, the VAB/CAE case highlights how the renewal of established biomedicine for autoimmunity partially unfolds by means of informal pharmaceutical economies, other cultures of legality and respective moralities.

Further Information

Concluded Projects

2007 - 2017 "Mourning rituals, person and circuits of exchange among Ciganos in northeastern Brazil“, research project, doctoral study.

2002 - 2004 "Coming and going between longings and fears in the city: an ethnography of the quotidian at a taxicab stand in Rio de Janeiro", research project, master study.

2000 - 2001 "Fear in the city: An ethnographic experience in Porto do Capim", research project, bachelor study.

1998 "The silences in/of the photography“, traineeship, bachelor study.

1996 - 1998 “Death and mourning in contemporary urban Brazil", traineeship, bachelor study.


Dr. Márcio Vilar

Faculty of Social Sciences
Institute of Sociology
Research Group Biotechnologies,
Nature and Society

Visiting address
Theodor-W.-Adorno-Platz 6
Campus-Westend – PEG-Building
Room 3.G 007
60323 Frankfurt am Main

Mail address
Campus Westend
PEG - internal post 31
60629 Frankfurt am Main

Tel. +49 69 798 36665


Team Assistant

Mrs. Uhrig
Room 3.G 030
Tel.: +49 69 798 36660