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Producing Standards, Producing the Nordic Region: Antibiotic Susceptibility Testing, from 1950–1970

  • Anne Kveim Lie (a1)

During the 1950s it became apparent that antibiotics could not conquer all microbes, and a series of tests were developed to assess the susceptibility of microbes to antibiotics. This article explores the development and standardization of one such testing procedure which became dominant in the Nordic region, and how the project eventually failed in the late 1970s. The standardization procedures amounted to a comprehensive scheme, standardizing not only the materials used, but also the methods and the interpretation of the results. Focusing on Sweden and Norway in particular, the article shows how this comprehensive standardization procedure accounted for several co-dependent factors and demanded collaboration within and across laboratories. Whereas literature on standardization has focused mostly on how facts and artefacts move within and across laboratories, I argue for the importance of also attending to regions and territories. More particularly, while arguing that the practices, ideals, and politics related to what have been called the “Nordic welfare state” were contributing to the design of the standardized procedure in the laboratory, I also argue that Scandinavia was drawn together as a unified region with and by these very same practices.

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