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Lecture 10

ANTHROP 3HI3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 10: Global Health, Biomedicine, Biological Interaction

Course Code
Dr. Rebecca Plett

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Globalization has led to encounter
o There are myriad medical systems in the world, and biomed has spread globally - interaction
is inevitable
o Biomed's spread due to its basis in the idea of a universal biology and that interventions can
be standardized
Where biomedicine engages with other medical systems or cultures becomes a "borderland":
o The blurred zones between cultures, where it emerges as "encounter over enclosure"
International and public health as borderland is a rich site of ethnographic and anthropological
Anthropology and public health
Medical anthro shows how medical systems change and shift in response to changing social
conditions and events
Anthropologists have been significantly involved in international health as advisors, researchers
and advocates working in public health and medicine
o And they are scholars of these endeavours and the social lives of disease
International public health
In anthro of global health, there are 4 broad topics focused on by anthropologists:
o Explaining health inequities
o Understanding the global movement of science, tech, and biomed
o Interrogating health policy and "expert knowledge," and the limits and politics of policy
o The roles of NGOs and the implications of their interventions
Anthropology and public health
In the 70s, George Foster - an anthropologist in international health addressed the spread of
biomed and the concern with "barriers" to its implementation and health care access:
o The barriers to the use of biomed are not the cultures of "traditional people" but the
economics and costs of accessing care, AND the cultures and interests of those responsible
for delivering care
o Anthro's stance should be with the people to be served
Med anthro focused on international health is most applied of the subfields
o Applied anthro: the application of theory, methods, and perspectives to solve social
o Understands social phenomena through engagement and activism:
Engaged anthro respects the dignity and the rights of all human and has a beneficent
effect on the promo of social justice
Advocacy in antho not new, but greater urgency for it now:
o Rapid social change and globalization, more and more vulnerable people are imperiled by
development, profit-seeking and the downsizing of gov't services
o More awareness of past injustices that contribute to current harm; these recognitions
generate social movements
What is activist research?
o Helps to understand the root causes of oppression, inequality, violence, and related
conditions of human suffering
o Is used (collectively) to come up with strategies to transform these conditions, along with
achieving the power necessary to make these strategies effective
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