This chapter examines the increasingly visible meeting points between
genomics and global health through the lens of rare genetic disease.
Focusing on the association between R337h, a particular biomarker that has
been identified at high population frequency in Brazil, and a cancer
syndrome, it examines how rareness and the politics it enfolds is defined
and put to work across terrains of local and global social action. It draws
from ethnographic research undertaken in cancer genetic clinics in the south
of Brazil with health professionals, scientists and patient communities. It
examines the strategic movement between a politics of ‘singularisation’ and
‘numbers’ in how a focus on rare genetic disease is unfolding in this
context and the complex vectors through which new yet partial realignments
between genomics and global health are being made.
This chapter discusses the tension between standardization and localization
in efforts to control tuberculosis (TB); between programmatic considerations
and responding to individual care needs, including particular TB strains,
co-morbidities, personal pharmaceutical histories or socio-economic
circumstances. Drawing on science and technology studies methodology,
including a focus on how standards are made to work, the chapter uses
anthropological and sociological literature on the DOTS (Directly Observed
Therapy, Short-Course) strategy and examples from fieldwork at multi-drug
resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB) treatment sites in India in the 2000s to
examine this tension. Standardized disease control programmes employing
drugs, such as DOTS, are often portrayed as struggling with inherent
dilemmas between standardization and localization. However, as this chapter
shows, such emphasis obscures the productive roles that standards can play.
They can act as facilitators in local negation and adaption of global
disease control strategies, serving as communicative tools between different
actors on different levels.
Taking the 2014–16 Ebola crisis in West Africa as entry point, this chapter
examines the ways in which the World Health Organization (WHO) operates in a
world of global health. In the wake of the crisis, much criticism of the
situation was directed at the WHO. Why did it not respond faster? And why
did it insist on a limited role of guidance and coordination, even once it
realized the severity of the situation? The chapter argues that the WHO’s
response to the Ebola crisis was a particularly dramatic manifestation of a
transformation – in priorities, practices and rhetoric – that occurred in
the 1990s as a strategic adaptation to the external pressures of
neoliberalism. As a result, the WHO bureaucracy was able to avoid a complete
neoliberal turnaround and preserve some of its interests. Most importantly,
the WHO was able to maintain its central concern with health at the global
level and to redefine its own position in the new ‘global health
architecture’ in a way that did not completely marginalize it. But this came
with a cost. And the inability to effectively respond to the Ebola epidemic
offers one manifestation of what these costs entail.
Acupuncture is a peculiar way of reading and treating people via meridians
inside their bodies punctuated by regulatory points. However similar they
may look, acupuncture points are located and function differently according
to the tradition to which they belong. An attempt to harmonize these points
was therefore launched by the World Health Organization as a foundation to
advance research and learning of acupuncture worldwide. But not much
progress has been made since its two attempts at standardization, one from
1983 to 1989 on nomenclature and the other from 2003 to 2008 on location.
Departing from a simple interpretation that claims such negotiations as
purely diplomatic in the political context of East Asia, this chapter aims
to explore the changing meaning of acupuncture points as they are disputed
and transformed among the experts assigned to establish standards.
The Tomašica mass grave and the trial of Ratko Mladić
This article focuses on the judicial consideration of the scientific analysis of the Tomašica mass grave, in the Prijedor municipality of Republika Srpska in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Often referred to as the largest mass grave in Europe since the Second World War, this grave was fully discovered in September 2013 and the scientific evidence gathered was included in the prosecution of Ratko Mladić before the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia. Based on the exhaustive analysis of all the publicly available trial transcripts, this article presents how the Tomašica evidence proved symptomatic of the way in which forensic sciences and international criminal justice intertwine and of the impact of the former over the latter on the admissibility of evidence, the conduct of proceedings and the qualification of the crimes perpetrated.
The display of human remains is a controversial issue in many contemporary societies, with many museums globally removing them from display. However, their place in genocide memorials is also contested. Objections towards the display of remains are based strongly in the social sciences and humanities, predicated on assumptions made regarding the relationship between respect, identification and personhood. As remains are displayed scientifically and anonymously, it is often argued that the personhood of the remains is denied, thereby rendering the person ‘within’ the remains invisible. In this article I argue that the link between identification and personhood is, in some contexts, tenuous at best. Further, in the context of Cambodia, I suggest that such analyses ignore the ways that local communities and Cambodians choose to interact with human remains in their memorials. In such contexts, the display of the remains is central to restoring their personhood and dignity.
Sacralisation and militarisation in the remembrance of the ‘cursed soldiers’
Marije Hristova and Monika Żychlińska
Between 2012 and 2017, at the Ł-section of Warsaw’s Powązki Military Cemetery, or ‘Łączka’, the Polish Institute of National Remembrance exhumed a mass grave containing the remains of post-war anti-communist resistance fighters. Being referred to as the ‘cursed soldiers’, these fighters have become key figures in post-2015 Polish memory politics. In this article we focus on the role of the volunteers at these exhumations in the production of the ‘cursed soldiers’ memory. Following the idea of community archaeology as a civil society-building practice, the observed processes of sacralisation and militarisation show how the exhumations create a community of memory that promotes the core values of the currently governing national-conservative PiS party. We found that tropes related to forensic research and typically identified with cosmopolitan memory paradigms are used within a generally nationalist and antagonistic memory framework.
Debates on the relevance of repatriation of indigenous human remains are water under the bridge today. Yet, a genuine will for dialogue to work through colonial violence is found lacking in the European public sphere. Looking at local remembrance of the Majimaji War (1905–7) in the south of Tanzania and a German–Tanzanian theatre production, it seems that the spectre of colonial headhunting stands at the heart of claims for repatriation and acknowledgement of this anti-colonial movement. The missing head of Ngoni leader Songea Mbano haunts the future of German–Tanzanian relations in heritage and culture. By staging the act of post-mortem dismemberment and foregrounding the perspective of descendants, the theatre production Maji Maji Flava offers an honest proposal for dealing with stories of sheer colonial violence in transnational memory.