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Responsibility to self and others: exploring the social lives of clinical protections in African settings 
Costanza Torre (London School of Economics and Political Science)
Georgina Pearson (Queen Margaret University)
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Health, Disease and Wellbeing
Monday 29 March, 11:15-12:45 (UTC+1)

Short Abstract:

This panel asks how people navigate public health interventions across diverse African settings. How do public health discourses centred around individual responsibilities to protect oneself and others relate to people's complex moral, social and economic concerns?

Long Abstract

This panel invites participants to examine how people navigate public health interventions which prioritise individualistic and often normative approaches to protection - a range of clinical tools, from pills, distancing requirements, quarantines and masks - within the socio-economic worlds of obligation in which they are imbricated. We are thus interested in the relationship between concepts of risk, abstracted clinical interventions and ever-changing familial and communal connections.

Responses to COVID-19 have emphasised the import of individuated action and personal responsibilities to prevent viral transmission. However, whilst the reification of the individual in processes of care has become particularly acute amidst the panic of viral spread, sparking heated discussion in the Global North, such trends are not new. Often integral to (and infiltrated within) neoliberal policies adopted in African states and conflict-affected places where state structures are non-extant, they have been evident in public health interventions for decades. In mitigating the spread of Ebola, West and Central African populations were forced to adopt lifestyle changes as individuals and families, often contravening communal practices. In the blooming field of Global Mental Health policy, psychotropic treatment is often pushed as a solution to mental distress, overlooking and silencing social ways of understanding and coping with affliction.

Grounded in investigations which depart from the contexts where people live out their everyday lives in diverse African settings, this panel explores how public health discourses centred around individual responsibilities to protect oneself and others relate to the complex moral, social and economic concerns of people navigating them.

Accepted papers: