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Author:Peter Brown (Emory University)
Paper short abstract:
Anthropologists in GH face the challenge of having two potentially contradictory roles: to find pragmatic solutions to problems of health programs and to analyze the ultimate causes of health inequities. This dilemma can be resolved using a strategy of Constructively Critical Medical Anthropology.
Paper long abstract:
Anthropologists working in the interdisciplinary field of Global Health (GH) face the challenge of having two potentially contradictory roles in research. The first role is to find pragmatic solutions to on-the-ground proximate problems in the disease prevention and health care, often by examining sociocultural beliefs and practices of local people (“recipients”) that might be in conflict with those of people who design and implement GH programs. The second role is to provide critical analyses of the ultimate causes and contexts of health inequities, such as structural violence, differences in priorities, or the retention of colonial attitudes and practices of Biomedicine. The balance of these two roles depends on the source of funding for the anthropological research. The decision of which diseases to tackle depends on implicit cost/benefit algorithms in which eradication are theoretically the most cost efficient, since benefits would last in perpetuity. Neglected Tropical Diseases persist despite being scientifically understood of over 100 years. The challenge of the two roles has a long history in Medical Anthropology. This paper suggests that the approach labelled “Constructively Critical Medical Anthropology” may help resolve the dilemma of two responsibilities.
Anthropology at a crossroads: neglected tropical diseases and the future of our discipline