Health and Governance in Africa

Interdisciplinary Graduate Student Conference
Stanford University
October 23-24, 2009

What are the links between the provision and distribution of health in Africa and economic changes, political reform, and transnational connections, in contemporary and historical frames? This conference seeks to foster conversation between scholars, policy experts, and practitioners that will address change and continuity in the relationship between health and governance in Africa.

2009 saw the launch of the Pan-African Clinical Trials Registry, an attempt to promote transparency in the growing field of medical research in Africa. Such trials at once provide some standard of health care while posing challenging ethical and political questions. In 2006, 17 people died and over 80,000 sought medical attention in the Ivory Coast when 500 tons of toxic waste were dumped in the country by a Panamanian ship turned away from Amsterdam. In 1901 the colonial administration of Lagos adopted a policy of racial segregation in an attempt to fight malaria and in the 1940s, to the same ends, they remade the city’s landscape by draining its marshes as part of the War effort.

These examples make clear the extent to which health issues in Africa are and have long been thoroughly intertwined with questions of government and the state, political economy and the environment. In order to explore this complex terrain, we have four core questions:

  • How are health and illness understood, debated, and achieved by different actors and agencies operating at local, national, and transnational scales?
  • How are circulations of drugs and illness, doctors and aid, capital and patents managed by citizens, patients, policy makers and health practitioners?
  • How does health become a site in which the boundaries between the state, the population, the body, NGOs, multinational corporations, and international development institutions are negotiated?
  • How are these developments historically produced and what are their effects on the provision of health care?



Keynote Address: “Malaria Control in Sub-Saharan Africa: Why Is It So Difficult?”
Paula Tavrow, PhD, MSc, MALD, School of Public Health, UCLA

Panel 1: Environmental Politics of Health

  • Jade Sasser, UC Berkeley, “Constructing the Sexual Steward: African Women, Fertility, and Environmental Responsibility”
  • Clare Gupta, UC Berkeley, “Conserving Nature, Changing Diets: Local Perceptions of the Impact of Botswana’s Chobe National Park Policies on Communities and Health”
  • Jacob Doherty, Stanford, “Esso Reports: Citizenship and Environmental Protection in Chad’s Doba Oilfields”
  • Discussant: Hannah Appel, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, Stanford


Panel 2: Health, Power, and Authority

  • Clement Masakure, University of Minnesota, “Requesting Permission to Arrest All Cholera Sufferers, Your Excellency: Cholera and Politics in Zimbabwe,”
  • Lauren Jarvis, Stanford, “The Nazareth Baptist Church and Contests over Healing in Segregationist South Africa”
  • Molly Cunningham, University of Chicago, “Basic Needs, Better Selves: Humanitarianism and Sovereignty in Botswana”
  • Marku Hokkanen, University of Jyväskylä, Finland, “Medicine(s) and Migration: Mobile Medical Experts, Middles and Migrants in Colonial Malawi”
  • Discussant: Landry Signé, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Center for African Studies, Stanford

Panel 3: Intervening in HIV/AIDS

  • Katie Fiorella, UC Berkeley, “Food by Prescription: The Medicalization of Food to Treat HIV/AIDS Patients in Mfangano Island, Kenya”
  • Dacia McPherson, Columbia, “Allocating the Burden of Proof: The Implications of Male Circumcision Planning in Rwanda for Decision Making in International Health”
  • Jill Cole, CUNY, “Sterilization of HIV-positive Women in Namibia”
  • Discussant: Joel Samoff, PhD, Consulting Professor, Center for African Studies, Stanford

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