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Accepted Paper:

Bacterial vaccine development in Benin, West Africa: anticipating the post-antibiotic world  
Salla Sariola (University of Helsinki) Elina Oinas (University of Helsinki)

Paper short abstract:

This paper analyses the conduct of a clinical trial of a bacterial vaccine in Benin, West Africa. The future vaccine is imagined as a novel technology to survive the post-antibiotic world.

Paper long abstract:

Antibiotics have made it possible for people to live longer, healthier lives. Antimicrobial resistance (AMR), however, is an increasing problem, and the World Health Organization has described it as the next big global health disaster. This concern has generated a quest for alternatives to antibiotics in order to survive the world where antibiotics are no longer available to cure common infections and prevent contamination during everyday operations.

The ethnographic focus of this paper is a clinical trial of a bacterial vaccine conducted in Benin, West-Africa. The vaccine is presented as innovative technology that would circumvent the use of antibiotics in the treatment of diarrhoea in the future. The case study demonstrates how the quest for alternatives to antibiotics not only pushes global health researchers towards new scientific discoveries, it also forces scientific communities to restructure their core practices regarding research tools, ideas of evidence, efficacy, and expertise.

Studying the vaccine as an emerging technology necessitates a post-human analysis that foregrounds the objects of the vaccine – the microbes. Therefore, for anthropologists, the changes urge us to conceptualize microbes despite their metaphorical and methodological invisibility. Such analysis shows how microbes are vital and malleable, rather than stable and contained and this liveliness captures the gist of the problem – given the magnitude of the changes ahead, a post-antibiotic world is nearly impossible to imagine.

Panel P164
Technologies, futures and imaginaries
  Session 1 Wednesday 15 August, 2018, -