Global Health Histories, Contagion & Migration: (Bio)Citizenship in Africa

Building an Africa-identified and Africa-led Research Agenda

Institute #1 | Concept Note

Global Health Histories, Contagion & Migration: (Bio)Citizenship in Africa

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Download the Concept Note here.

This institute will draw on conceptual and empirical scholarship to explore global health histories, contemporary migration dynamics, imaginaries of contagion and the influence of the ‘outbreak narrative’ (Wald, 2008) on notions of ‘biocitizenship’ (Happe et al., 2018; Petryna, 2013) in Africa.

Emerging in response to the racist and separatist legacies of colonial, tropical and missionary medicine (Greene et al., 2013) and in recognition of the limitations of international health – which focuses on the (poor) health of people and places ‘elsewhere’ – the field of global health sets out to achieve ‘equity in health for all people worldwide’ (Koplan et al., 2009). But ‘global health’ as a concept remains messy (Peters, 2017). Efforts to define its mandate or determine who is responsible for implementing its agenda risk reproducing the very inequities the field sets out to address – a concern increasingly recognised across the African continent and elsewhere (e.g. Abimbola et al., 2021; Bhakuni and Abimbola, 2021; Fofana, 2021). These critiques provide an entry point for analysing the nexus between migration and health. Participants in this institute will engage critically with theories of (bio)citizenship by interrogating their evolution on the African continent and by examining their historical and contemporary manifestations.

Fears over the ‘diseased’ foreigner whose movements must be restricted to ‘protect’ the body politic are not new. However, the measures put in place to reduce the ‘threat’ of contagion, as well the rhetoric used to justify said measures, have changed over time. Public anxieties over ‘the contamination of space itself by mobile bodies’ (King, 2002) have generated increasingly punitive actions to prevent or restrict the movement of certain migrant bodies. These in turn have influenced international security and sovereignty debates – including in the context of HIV (e.g. Chávez, 2018) and, most recently, Covid-19 (e.g. Lorenzini, 2021; Ormond, 2021) .

Recognising the need to support the development of Africa-led methodological, theoretical and pedagogical processes for exploring the complex and contested relationship between migration and health, this institute provides an opportunity for critical engagement with both conceptual and empirical scholarship. Questions we aim to explore include:

  • How do the concepts of biopower and (bio)citizenship assist us in understanding approaches to the governance of migration?
  • Can a historical understanding of ‘global health’ assist contemporary African scholarship on migration and health?
  • In what ways do nationality, class, gender, sexuality and other intersecting identities affect health and impact the policing of migrant bodies in African states?
  • What would a ‘migration-aware’ (Vearey et al., 2017) health system look like? Is mainstreaming migration a helpful framing?
  • What is the state of global scholarship on migration and health, associated research agendas and the geopolitics of such knowledge production? Are there forms of epistemic injustice that we need to address in the field of migration and health?
  • What does an African-driven and internationally relevant migration and health research agenda look like?
Picture: James Oatway
Salbedze Mashabane, 50, and his wife, Sandra Mlima, 45, are raising seven children between them. Salbedze was born with a physical disability on his left leg, while suffering a serious injury to his right leg after he fell into a fire during an epileptic seizure. Sandra is deaf and came to South Africa following the death of her parents during the civil war in Mozambique. The family of 9 survive on Salbedze’s disability grant and child grants for three of the children. Picture: James Oatway

References
If you struggle to access any of these references, please email us.

Abimbola, S., Asthana, S., Montenegro, C., Guinto, R.R., Jumbam, D.T., Louskieter, L., Kabubei, K.M., Munshi, S., Muraya, K., Okumu, F., Saha, S., Saluja, D., Pai, M., 2021. Addressing power asymmetries in global health: Imperatives in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. PLOS Medicine 18, e1003604. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1003604

Bhakuni, H., Abimbola, S., 2021. Epistemic injustice in academic global health. The Lancet Global Health S2214109X21003016. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2214-109X(21)00301-6

Chávez, K., 2018. Chapter 5: The Necropolitical Functions of Biocitizenship: The Sixth International AIDS Conference and the U.S. Ban on HIV- Positive Immigrants, in: Happe, K.E., Johnson, J., Levina, L. (Eds.), Biocitizenship: The Politics of Bodies, Governance, and Power. New York University Press, New York.

Fofana, M.O., 2021. Decolonising global health in the time of COVID-19. Global Public Health 16, 1155–1166. https://doi.org/10.1080/17441692.2020.1864754

Greene, J., Basilico, M., Kim, H., Farmer, P., 2013. Chapter 3: Colonial Medicine and Its Legacies, in: Farmer, P., Yong Kim, J., Kleinman, A., Basilico, M. (Eds.), Reimagining Global Health: An Introduction. Univ of California Press, pp. 33–73.

Happe, K.E., Johnson, J.M., Levina, M. (Eds.), 2018. Biocitizenship: the politics of bodies, governance, and power. New York University Press, New York.

King, N.B., 2002. Security, disease, commerce: ideologies of postcolonial global health. Social studies of science 32, 763–789.

Koplan, J.P., Bond, T.C., Merson, M.H., Reddy, K.S., Rodriguez, M.H., Sewankambo, N.K., Wasserheit, J.N., 2009. Towards a common definition of global health. The Lancet 373, 1993–1995. https://doi.org/10.1016/S0140-6736(09)60332-9

Lorenzini, D., 2021. Biopolitics in the Time of Coronavirus. Critical Inquiry 47, S40–S45. https://doi.org/10.1086/711432

Ormond, M., 2021. Managing Internationally Mobile Bodies in a World on Hold: Migration, Tourism, and Biological Citizenship in the Context of COVID-19, in: Andrews, G.J., Crooks, V.A., Pearce, J.R., Messina, J.P. (Eds.), COVID-19 and Similar Futures: Pandemic Geographies, Global Perspectives on Health Geography. Springer International Publishing, Cham, pp. 119–124. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-70179-6_15

Peters, D., 2017. False Distinctions Between International Health and Global Health. Global Health NOW. https://www.globalhealthnow.org/2017-11/false-distinctions-between-international-health-and-global-health

Petryna, A., 2013. Life Exposed: Biological Citizens After Chernobyl. Princeton University Press.

Vearey, J., Modisenyane, M., Hunter-Adams, J., 2017. Towards a migration-aware health system in South Africa: a strategic opportunity to address health inequity. South African Health Review 10.

Wald, P., 2008. Contagious: Cultures, Carriers, and the Outbreak Narrative. Duke

University Press https://doi.org/10.1215/9780822390572