“The essays are in the very best tradition of medical anthropology: they display intimate political engagement, are genuinely comparative, speak to each other, and…accessibly written. …The volume opens up new vistas on public health, and challenges what we take for granted.”
“Public health in Africa—as elsewhere—is no longer strictly public. Public and private providers are involved in national and transnational partnerships that divide responsibility for health and welfare among a number of agencies and actors. These clear and powerful essays set out this new landscape, exploring how medical professionals and patients, government officials and citizens approach questions of health. This text is required reading for anyone interested in contemporary Africa.”
Henrietta L. Moore, author of Still Life: Hopes, Desires and Satisfactions
“[The chapters] provide a fascinating range of ethnographically rich and theoretically subtle accounts of and insights into the diverse and often ambiguous practices of ‘public health’ across Africa. …One of the most impressive things about this volume is its integration and coherence…The result is a landmark publication that I believe will become a key text of enduring value – particularly to scholars and practitioners in the fields of public health, global health, and medical anthropology – but also to a much wider audience within and beyond anthropology.”
Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
“A powerful and complex picture of what ‘public health’ is in Africa today as commitments to national health systems are being reshaped through the dramatic rise of ‘global health.’ This set of ethnographically rich and historically sensitive essays illustrates the forms of inequality that structure efforts to building health care institutions and that configure debates over who is responsible for the health and care of particular individuals. It is a must read for both Africanists interested in medicine and public health professionals who care about Africa.”
Stacey A. Langwick, author of Bodies, Politics, and African Healing: The Matter of Maladies in Tanzania
Africa has emerged as a prime arena of global health interventions that focus on particular diseases and health emergencies. These are framed increasingly in terms of international concerns about security, human rights, and humanitarian crisis. This presents a stark contrast to the 1960s and ‘70s, when many newly independent African governments pursued the vision of public health “for all,” of comprehensive health care services directed by the state with support from foreign donors. These initiatives often failed, undermined by international politics, structural adjustment, and neoliberal policies, and by African states themselves. Yet their traces remain in contemporary expectations of and yearnings for a more robust public health.
This volume explores how medical professionals and patients, government officials, and ordinary citizens approach questions of public health as they navigate contemporary landscapes of NGOs and transnational projects, faltering state services, and expanding privatization. Its contributors analyze the relations between the public and the private providers of public health, from the state to new global biopolitical formations of political institutions, markets, human populations, and health. Tensions and ambiguities animate these complex relationships, suggesting that the question of what public health actually is in Africa cannot be taken for granted. Offering historical and ethnographic analyses, the volume develops an anthropology of public health in Africa.
Contributors:Hannah Brown, P. Wenzel Geissler, Murray Last, Rebecca Marsland, Lotte Meinert, Benson A. Mulemi, Ruth J. Prince, Noémi Tousignant, and Susan Reynolds Whyte
Ruth Prince is a research fellow in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge and the Institute of Anthropology at the University of Oslo. More info →
Rebecca Marsland is a lecturer in the Department of Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh. More info →
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This first extensive study of the practice of blood transfusion in Africa traces the history of one of the most important therapies in modern medicine from the period of colonial rule to independence and the AIDS epidemic. The introduction of transfusion held great promise for improving health, but like most new medical practices, transfusion needed to be adapted to the needs of sub-Saharan Africa, for which there was no analogous treatment in traditional African medicine.
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