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Evidence, Ethos and Experiment: The Anthropology and History of Medical Research in Africa

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Evidence, Ethos and Experiment

The Anthropology and History of Medical Research in Africa

Edited by P. Wenzel Geissler and Catherine Molyneux

508 pages, 32 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-0-85745-092-0 $179.00/£132.00 Hb Published (September 2011)

ISBN  978-1-78533-500-6 $39.95/£31.95 Pb Published (May 2017)

eISBN 978-0-85745-093-7 eBook

Hb Pb View cartYour country: United States - Click here to remove geolocation   Buy the eBook from these vendors Request a Review or Examination Copy (in Digital Format) Recommend to your Library Available in GOBI®


Each of the chapters is noteworthy. Together, they offer a promising opportunity to broaden the field of postcolonial science studies in ways that remind us how ethicality is at the heart of these encounters of science… the volume will be useful to medical anthropologists, science studies scholars, and generalist scholars of Africa and global health. Individual chapters, as well as whole sections of the book, will be particularly useful for teaching at the upper-division undergraduate or graduate levels.”  Medical Anthropology Quarterly

“…a series of compelling and well written chapters…Considering the explosion of medical research in Africa in the age of global health, Evidence, ethos and experiment is a valuable and much-needed contribution to the development of multiple contextual frameworks for historical and contemporary medical research in Africa and elsewhere.  ·  Social Anthropology/Anthropologie sociale

The book is instructive, interesting and innovative. it draws on strong empirical work and opens up significant discussions concerning epistemological and ethical issues and will be of interest to a wide range of scholars, including medical anthropology, history, medicine, science and epidemiology.  ·  Tijdschrift Medische Antropologie

“This is an extremely interesting and innovative collection with unusual empirical richness, with ethical and epistemological discussions cutting across anthropology, medicine, history, epidemiology and other disciplines.”  ·  Lotte Meinert, Department of Anthropology, Aarhus University


Medical research has been central to biomedicine in Africa for over a century, and Africa, along with other tropical areas, has been crucial to the development of medical science. At present, study populations in Africa participate in an increasing number of medical research projects and clinical trials, run by both public institutions and private companies. Global debates about the politics and ethics of this research are growing and local concerns are prompting calls for social studies of the “trial communities” produced by this scientific work. Drawing on rich, ethnographic and historiographic ­­­material, this volume represents the emergent field of anthropological inquiry that links Africanist ethnography to recent concerns with science, the state, and the culture of late capitalism in Africa.

P. Wenzel Geissler teaches social anthropology at the University of Oslo and at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. He studied medical zoology in Hamburg and Copenhagen and social anthropology in Copenhagen and Cambridge. Since 1993 he has worked in western Kenya, conducting first medical research and then several years of ethnographic fieldwork. Currently he is writing an ethnography of post-colonial scientific research in Kisumu, Kenya.

Catherine Molyneux, Ph.D., is employed by Oxford University and has been working as part of the KEMRI-Wellcome Trust Research Programme in Kilifi, Kenya, since 1994. She currently co-leads the Social and Behavioural research (SBR) group in Kilifi. Her current research focuses on community accountability and producing new thinking, evidence and recommendations around strengthening community involvement in biomedical research and health delivery in sub-Saharan Africa.

Subject: Medical Anthropology Development Studies
Area: Africa


Introduction: Studying trial communities: anthropological and historical inquiries into ethos, politics and economy of medical research in Africa
P. Wenzel Geissler


Chapter 1. Writing Knowledge and Acknowledgement: Possibilities in Medical Research
Susan Reynolds Whyte

Chapter 2. Can one Rely on Knowledge?
Marilyn Strathern

Chapter 3. Being 'with MRC': Infant Care and the Social Meanings of Cohort Membership in Gambia's Plural Therapeutic Landscapes
Melissa Leach and James Fairhead

Chapter 4. Contextualising Ethics in AIDS Research: or, the Morality of Knowledge Production in Ethnographic Fieldwork on ‘the Unspeakable’
Hansjörg Dilger

Chapter 5. Testing a New Drug for Leprosy: Clofazimine and its Precursors in Ireland and Nigeria, 1944-1966
John Manton

Chapter 6. Elucidating Ethics in Practice -- Focus on Accountability
George Ulrich


Chapter 7. When Physicians Meet: Local Medical Knowledge and Global Public Goods
Steven Feierman

Chapter 8. The Plausibility Design, Quasi-Experiments, and Real World Research: a Case Study from the Interdisciplinary Monitoring Project for Antimalarial Combination Treatment in Tanzania
S. Patrick Kachur

Chapter 9. Remember Bambali: Evidence, Ethics and the Co-Production of Truth
Ann Kelly

Chapter 10. Foetuses, Facts and Frictions: Insights from Ultrasound Research in Tanzania
Babette Müller-Rockstroh

Chapter 11. Healers and Scientists: The Epistemological Politics of Research about Medicinal Plants in Tanzania or ‘Moving Away from Traditional Medicine’
Stacey A. Langwick

Chapter 12. Parasite Lost. Remembering Modern Times with Kenyan Government Medical Scientists
P. Wenzel Geissler

Chapter 13. Is the Sharia of the Doctors Killing the People? A Local Debate on Ethics and the Control of HIV/AIDS in a Rural Area in Kenya
Suzette Heald


Chapter 14. The Historical Interface between the State and Medical Science in Africa: Kenya’s Case
Kenneth S. Ombongi

Chapter 15. The intimate rules of the French Coopération: Morality, Race and the Postcolonial Division of Scientific Work at the Pasteur Institute of Cameroon
Guillaume Lachenal

Chapter 16. The Mosquito Taken at the Beer-Hall’: Malaria Research and Control on Zambia’s Copperbelt
Lyn Schumaker

Chapter 17. Trial Communities: HIV and Therapeutic Citizenship in West Africa
Vin-Kim Nguyen

Chapter 18. Differences in Medicine, Differences in Ethics: or, When is it Research and When is it Kidnapping or is That Even the Right Question?
Luise White


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