Genetics, Molar Pregnancies, and Medieval Ideas of Monstrous Births: The Lump of Flesh in The King of Tars

by Natalie Goodison What’s fascinating about this paper is that it’s a collaboration between geneticists and medievalists—and this very rich perspective led me to rethink what the Middle Ages considered fact/fictitious. It begins with a fictional story, within which a woman gives birth to a lump of flesh. When I first read about this lump, […]

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June Special Issue: Biopolitics, psychosomatics, participating bodies

  Editor’s Note: Welcome to our June Special Issue, Biopolitics and Psychosomatics. But what are Biopolitics? And what, for that matter, are psychosomatics? Both terms are charged, and frequently divisive—with the latter often defined as physician illness with a root cause in mental factors. Controversy is no reason to shy away from critical engagement, however. […]

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Living Archives and Dying Wards: Reflections on Medical Archives in Eastern Africa

by Dr. Mika Marissa I am currently writing a book on the history of the Uganda Cancer Institute (UCI). I tell the story of how a small experimental chemotherapy research site established by the Makerere department of surgery and the US National Cancer Institute in 1967 remained open during a long period of political instability, […]

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Biomedicine and the Humanities: Growing Pains

In this article for December’s Special Issue, Hume, Mulemi, and Sadok take a look at the unique challenges facing humanities researchers in clinical and community health settings in Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. Their work considers these experiences within the broader context—but our broader context of disciplinary ’ethnocentrism’ that hampers the development of knowledge in […]

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Walking Up Hills, Through History, And In-Between Disciplines: MHH And Health Sciences Education At The Tip Of Africa

by Carla Tsampiras Celebration, frustration, contestation, and imagination all manifest themselves when examining the evolution of the field of Medical and Health Humanities (MHH) at the University of Cape Town (UCT). That this field has been growing at the same time as access to, inclusion in, and social justice issues linked to higher education have […]

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Field Notes in the Clinic on Medicine, Anthropology and Pedagogy in South Africa

by Michelle Pentecost In this commentary I draw on my experience working as a medical doctor and an anthropologist to explore what different disciplinary orientations allow us to ‘see’ in clinical settings. I argue that the anthropological skills of observation, privileging relationship, and of learning to foreground social context, have much to offer for teaching […]

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Beyond the Lab: Eh!woza and Knowing Tuberculosis

by Bianca Masuku, Anastasia Koch, Ed Young, Digby Warner and Nolwazi Mkhwanazi The accompanying podcast offers a reflection on Eh!woza, a youth-based community engagement project focusing on tuberculosis (TB). Based in Cape Town, South Africa, Eh!woza functions as an interactive and interrogative platform, contrasting perspectives and concepts of TB as biomedical disease with personal experiences […]

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Representing Disability and Development in the Global South

by Leslie Swartz Disability studies scholars have long been interested in accessible and alternative ways of communicating through diverse media including memoir, dance, photography and film. In some ways, these media may helpfully talk back to oppressive forms of representation and provide the space for an authentic self-representation. It is not, however, without problems, and […]

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Toxic Layering Through Three Disciplinary Lenses: Childhood Poisoning and Street Pesticide use in Cape Town South Africa

by Alison Swartz, Susan Levine, Hanna-Andrea Rother and Fritha Langerman In this article by Swartz, Levine, Rother and Langerman, we see the devastating effects of a hidden killer. Agricultural pesticides repurposed to kill rats and other unwanted pests have led to episodes of child poisoning. While on one hand, the pesticides are used to safeguard […]

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Pharmaceuticals and Modern Statecraft in South Africa: The Cases of Opium Thalidomide and Contraception

by Julie Parle, Rebecca Hodes and Thembisa Waetjen In this audio clip, Thembisa Waetjen and Rebecca Hodes discuss their article, co-authored with Julie Parle, which explores a century of pharmaceutical politics through a close historical account of three medicaments. In African contexts, historical research necessarily engages with experiences of colonisation/decolonisation, which have shaped local and […]

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