Tag: medical anthropology

Embracing Black Positionalities, (Re)Centring Slowness: A Challenge to Anthropology’s Anti-Racism Efforts

Anti-racism efforts remain highly problematic. As anthropologists, we are usually aware of the violent, colonial, and genocidal histories of research on ‘race’ and realities of racism which have been conducted in the names of scientific and social advancement. But now, we find ourselves in the “post-George Floyd era”— a phrase used to describe the current temporal phase of discourses on anti-Black racism, as was articulated at the UK’s first (known) Black anthropologist’s conference, called The Gathering . In the UK, the post-George Floyd era refers to a tragic, but expected, decline; where constructive discussions about, empathy towards, and valued recognition of Black lives have reached their peak in popular discourse and are returning to their tokenistic nature in academia. At the height of the global Black Lives Matter movement, and even in the immediate aftermath (late spring of 2020 to the end of 2020), there seemed to be small glimmers of hope that maybe, just maybe, the murder of a Black man at the hands of actors of the ‘State’ would act as a catalyst for the meaningful, long-lasting upheaval of many anti-Black systems. Yet, two years later, in 2022, I find myself in the position of a Black doctoral student studying Anthropology in a state of disbelief and underwhelm. (read more...)

PrEP on Trial: the Future of HIV in Indonesian Policy Worlds

In 2012, the first pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drugs, billed as a pill a day to prevent HIV, were authorized for use in the United States. Heralded as a transformative prevention technology for gay men and trans women in particular, one that encouraged new forms of self-management and risk mitigation practices alongside condoms, testing, and treatment, PrEP has since been incorporated into the global HIV prevention toolkit. In reports, policy documents, and community organizations, PrEP is uniformly described as necessary to accelerate the HIV control response and meet the global target of the “end of AIDS” by 2030. In line with this dominant policy narrative, governments reliant on international donor funding for HIV programs are now encouraged to incorporate PrEP into HIV programs for MSM, transgender women and other “key populations” assessed as meeting a specific risk profile. This is the case for Indonesia, which formally approved PrEP for a trial in 2021 (United States Agency for International Development (USAID) 2021). Although initially announced in 2019 with a considerable degree of community support, Indonesia’s PrEP trial was postponed both due to the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent bureaucratic delays. Nevertheless, with significant pressure from international donors and support from the Global Fund, USAID, and Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, a PrEP trial commenced in April 2022 across seven provinces in Indonesia. Key populations who agreed to undertake an array of tests and routine clinical monitoring, would obtain access to a 30-day supply of a single pill combining tenofovir disoproxil fumarate (TDF) and emtricitabine (FTC) – generic Truvada – from one of 34 primary health clinics at no cost. As it circulates in policy, clinical, and community spaces, PrEP is transforming the temporal horizon for HIV in Indonesia and other postcolonial settings where access to healthcare remains thwarted by entrenched global inequalities. (read more...)

Enigmas of Corporeal Justice: Surrogacy and Legality in India

Over the last two decades, India has become a popular global destination for what is commonly referred to as reproductive tourism, wherein clients travel from one part of the world to another to seek biomedical interventions to help them have children. Breakthroughs in assisted reproductive technologies (ART), such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF), have led to a boom in surrogate pregnancies as a means of having children, with international clients (mostly from the Global North) flocking to countries in the Global South, like India, to avail of these services. Like much of the medical tourism industry, this movement is motivated by access to state-of-the-art medical facilities, skilled professional care, along with remarkably low costs and the availability of poor bodies to extract from. (read more...)

Who Decides What We Measure in Health Tech?

At present, there are several problems in women’s health that still remain poorly characterized and understudied. In my research on one such issue, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), it is clear that one of the largest challenges is for studies to capture the complexity of women’s and cycling people’s experiences – a challenge which, up until now, science has struggled to resolve. (read more...)

Swarming Syphilis: On the Reality of Data

(Editor’s Note: This blog post is part of the Thematic Series Data Swarms Revisited) Syphilis, an infection caused by the bacterium treponema pallidum, is an important disease. It starts as a skin lesion and develops until it deforms bones, compromises the central nervous system, and ultimately causes death. During pregnancy, the disease can also be transmitted from mother to child. It has accompanied our species at least since the Renaissance and generated various innovations in modern science throughout this history. It helped give rise to serology through the Wasserman Reaction (Fleck 2010), the first detection test, and it was crucial for the consolidation of somatological perspectives of mental illnesses in psychiatry (Carrara and Carvalho 2010). Due to sexual transmission of the disease, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it became the evil venereal illness par excellence in restrictive sexual regimes (Fleck 2010; Quetel 1986). Since that time, syphilis has laid the foundations for codes of social conduct and even for ideas of the “self” in western societies, for example in criminalizing prostitution (Carrara 1996; Bastos 2007) and shaping contagion theories and its relations of body-subject (Echeverría 2010). (read more...)

The Vector, the Viruses, and the “Healthy World”: Placing Aedes aegypti in Brazil

Mosquito: the “most dangerous animal in the world,” human’s “deadliest predator.” This insect is often described as the most probable target for gene-editing technologies that have the potential to eliminate the unwanted. Mosquitoes are usually presented as the number one enemy of humankind, a globally hated pest: the most killable of all beings. (read more...)

40: Quarantine & The Origins of Computation

Quarantine is a number. Quarantine was the name given to the strategy of isolating potentially harmful populations for forty days in an effort to impede potential dangers. Deriving from the Italian word for forty (quaranta), alongside quarantines there existed the trentine (thirty) and sessantine (sixty), each defined by the number of days of mandated isolation. The word took its meaning following the Black Death and subsequent waves of plague. It was first legally enforced in Ragusa (Dubrovnik today) in 1377. Today, especially at this precise moment, quarantine is rather estranged from this history. (read more...)

Some Chloroquine-AZT Parallels and Science’s Credibility Struggles

As an anthropologist and STS researcher, a great deal of my academic career has been proudly dedicated to studying and denouncing the bias, inequalities, and prejudice within both scientific and medical practices. Such critique, far from intending to undermine scientific credibility, comes from a place of deep respect, trust, and, I dare say, great optimism regarding what kind of project we have for science in the long term: one where knowledge is comprehensive and accessible, and where expertise is not build upon the concealment of information. (read more...)