Domains, devices and infrastructures
Studying disease through the evolving field of medical anthropology
Medical anthropology as a sub-discipline has evolved in recent decades in dialogue with companion disciplines such as sociology, history and geography as well as with public health and biomedicine. While medical anthropology has always been holistic in defining its research questions, this period has seen a widening of approaches to decentre human agency as the primary focus for understanding health and disease. These efforts have run counter to prevailing discourses, including in public health, that focus on human behaviour and lifestyles as sites for explanation and intervention. In this lecture, Clare Chandler reflects on how these developments have shaped the research she has engaged with over her career, the insights this has produced and the spaces for action that can emerge.
A core theme of the lecture is how disease can become known in research, teaching and practice. Drawing on examples from her anthropological studies of malaria and antimicrobial resistance, Clare shows the ways that diseases are organized into fields – or assemblages – that shape our understanding of the nature, position and priorities assigned to diseases. She shows how the assemblage of these fields has important impacts on lives and livelihoods around the world. With reference to ethnographic work in Tanzania and Uganda in particular, Clare explores the significance of domains, devices and infrastructures when trying to understand disease and care in everyday practice. The lecture reflects on how medical anthropology can shed new light on health challenges and open up new pathways for knowing and responding to disease.
Professor Clare Chandler, Professor of Medical Anthropology