Accepted paper:

(Im)mobile patients: negotiating care in medicoscapes of Nigerian physicians and their families


Judith Schühle (FU Berlin)

Paper short abstract:

This paper seeks to explore how (im)mobilities of objects, patients, care givers and health professionals are negotiated within transnational therapy networks constituted of migrated Nigerian physicians and their family members back home who are embedded in a local culture of medical mobility and tourism.

Paper long abstract:

This paper looks at the role that Nigerian trained physicians who have migrated abroad play in the health care seeking behavior, wellbeing and disease management of their families back in Nigeria. Within "medicoscapes" (Wolf and Hörbst 2003, 2014) that connect diverse biomedical landscapes and cultural expectations of wellbeing and care, migrated physicians actively weave safety nets from abroad that try to bridge the gap between the healthcare system they work in and the health care system their family members are treated in. As members of "transnational therapy networks" (Krause 2008) they decide when to move a patient-relative to "enclaves of abundance" (Sullivan 2011) that is state of the art hospitals within Nigeria or abroad or when to bring objects, care givers and health professionals to an immobile patient. The paper analyzes the (im)mobility of patients against the backdrop of a history of medical tourism in Nigeria, and how this shapes a therapy network's expectations on mobility. In Nigeria, being a mobile patient or a medical tourist can be as much a necessity as a social prestige: Politicians and celebrities are known as medical tourists, regularly flying out of the country for medical check ups and routine procedures. For complex procedures, patients fly to countries such as India, Saudi Arabia, the UK or the US. It will thus be shown that the decision to move or not move a patient depends not only on biomedical reasoning, but also on different cultures of (mobile) care, both in Nigeria and in the country to which the physicians migrated to.

panel P51
Mobilities of wellbeing