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Associate Professor, Anthropology
I am an anthropologist of healing and medicine in Africa. I am interested in the development of the particular forms of knowledge that become central to therapeutic regimes. The politics of healing knowledge shapes the way that we care, and what we care for; it shapes who we hold responsible for pain, debility, misfortune, and death as well as who is obligated to help. My own research investigates traditional medicine in East Africa. I teach classes on medicine, the body, postcolonial science, global health and Africa.
- Africana Studies and Research Center
- Africana Studies
- Feminist, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
- Science and Technology Studies
To date, my most sustained examination of healing in Africa is my first book entitled Bodies, Politics, and African Healing: The Matter of Maladies in Tanzania. This book examines how healers are generating new ways of conceptualizing the body and bodily threats as they confront a changing therapeutic landscape dominated by AIDS and malaria. I show how healers are crafting not only a new lexicon at the intersection of traditional and modern medicine, but also new hybrid objects and entities toward which their care is directed, including enchanted parasites and biomedical devils. The detailed accounts of therapies tell a new story of colonialism, post-independence socialism, and the rise of neoliberalism.
Many of the healers with whom I worked for this first project were curious about scientific investigations into plant, animal and mineral based medicines. Their curiosity--their hopes in and fears about the possibilities of collaboration with scientists-- drew my attention to the postcolonial laboratory. I am currently investigating the ways that new legal regimes and forms of capital are shaping scientific investigations into herbal medicine in Africa. International legal policies--particularly those on intellectual property articulated in the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) and administered through the World Trade Organization (WTO)—are re-formulating what counts as innovation and new knowledge in Africa (and elsewhere). In the process, they are also re-formulating the types of community and collaboration considered critical to scientific knowledge, the intellectual priorities and forms of achievement that drive "local" experts, and the notions of the commons and communal property believed to be viable.
This new research has shifted my attention slightly from a focus on the work of healers to the work of scientists, lawyers, government officials and policy makers--from therapies to the laboratory studies that are making traditional medicine. I remain interested however in the diverse (and, at times, seemingly conflicting) claims about the nature of the body and its threats, as well as the ways that these claims come to be coordinated at community, national, and global levels. In addition, through all of my research, I strive to bring the generative, creative activity of Africans to the center of debates in cultural and social theory and to highlight how the production of "Africa" is central to current global political, economic, technological and ethical regimes.
"Agitating for Hope, Learning to Care." Comments on Clare Wendland's article, "Animating Biomedicine's Moral Order: The Crisis of Practice in Malawian Medical Training,"Current Anthopology. 53:778-779. 2012
From Non-Aligned Medicines to Market-based herbals: China's relationship to the Shifting Politics of Traditional Medicine in Tanzania.Medical anthropology. 29:1-29. 2010
Articulate(d) Bodies: Traditional Medicine in a Tanzanian Hospital. American Ethnologist. 35:428-439. 2008
Devils, Parasites and Fierce Needles: Healing and the Politics of Translation in Southeastern Tanzania. Science, Technology, and Human Values. 32:88-117. 2007
Medicine, mobility, and Power in Global Africa: Transnational Health and Healing. Co-edited with Hansjoerg Dilger and Abdoulaye Kane Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. 2012
Bodies, Politics, and African Healing: The Matter of Maladies in Tanzania. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 2011
The Choreography of Global Subjection: The Traditional Birth Attendant in Contemporary Configurations of World Health. Medicine, Mobility, and Power in Global Africa: Transnational Health and Healing. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. 2012
"Introduction,"Transnational Medicine, Mobile Experts: Globalization, Health, and Power in & Beyond Africa. Medicine, Mobility, and Power in Global Africa: Transnational Health and Healing. co-written with Hansjoerg Dilger and Abdoulaye Kane. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press. 2012
Healers and Scientists: The Epistemological Politics of Research about Medicinal Plants in Tanzania or "Moving Away from Traditional Medicine." Evidence, Ethos and Experiment: The Anthropology and History of Medical Research in Africa. Edited by P. Wenzel Geissler and Catherine Molyneux. New York: Berghahn Books. 263-295. 2011
Geographies of Medicine: Interrogating the Boundary between 'Traditional' and 'Modern' Medicine in Colonial Tanganyika. Borders and healers : brokering therapeutic resources in southeast Africa. Edited by Harry West and Tracy Luedke. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 143-165. 2006