Of What is Global Health the Symptom

Wednesday, 9 November 2016, 6:00pm - 7:30pm, IWM library
We are sorry to inform you that this lecture had to be cancelled! Thank you for your understanding!

This lecture articulates a conceptual architecture to account for global health as emerging planetary infrastructure and as epistemological form. Drawing on fieldwork in the recent West African Ebola epidemic, vaccination campaigns in its wake, and global telemedicine it explores three theoretical designs.


  1. The first draws on Foucault’s Birth of the Clinic to explore how the emergence of a globalized clinic (clinical archipelago) constitutes a new centre of authorization for specific human/nonhuman transactions and entities. Possible examples include Ebola vaccines, oneHealth, and bat-human interactions; stem cell therapies.
  2. The second, pace Marx, starts from the thesis that biomedicine will be to the 21st century what the industrial revolution was to the 19th. It draws on anthropologies of biocapital and ethnographies of biotech of epidemiological life (clinical trials, Ebola; symptom as surplus value; populations as infectious disease reservoirs as negative value) to explore how biomedical technologies conjure or enable new regimes of value, new markets, new labours.
  3. The third starts pus into conversation ethnographies of military and epidemiological preparedness, of divination and omens, and of legal régimes that inscribe the future anterior to explore how global health constitutes a régime of anticipation and a machine for making the future, in the arenas of prediction.

Nguyen_PhotoVinh-Kim Nguyen is an HIV and Emergency physician and medical anthropologist. As both practitioner and researcher, he is concerned with the relationship between science, politics and practice in global health. He practices Emergency Medicine in Paris and Montréal, and currently heads a team of anthropologists researching the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. He is Professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Montreal where he leads the PhD track in Global Health, and Professor of Anthropology and Sociology of Development at the Graduate Institute for International and Development Studies in Geneva; he also holds an honorary chair at the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme in Paris which hosts researchers working on global health issues.