P22
Anthropology and public health: encounters at the interface

Convenors:
Hayley MacGregor (Institute of Development Studies)
Melissa Parker (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine)
Christopher Davis (SOAS)
Discussant:
RAI Medical Anthropology Committee
Format:
Panels
Location:
Sackler A
Start time:
9 June, 2012 at 9:30
Session slots:
2

Short abstract:

This panel has two allocated time slots and explores the forms of engagement that have emerged between medical anthropologists and public health research and interventions. The first time slot will be taken up by a facilitated panel discussion. Invited individuals will offer their reflections on their experiences of collaboration and respond to the themes of the panel, followed by comment from the floor. The second time slot will consist of paper presentations. We have invited submissions that reflect upon the challenges of working collaboratively.

Long abstract:

This panel will consider the range of experiences of anthropologists working in or on public health or biomedical research. Can these encounters be analysed in a way that gets beyond the binaries of 'applied' and "non-applied' work towards a more productive understanding of how anthropologists negotiate the politics of getting 'in the mix'? Different forms of engagement have emerged linking medical anthropologists to biomedical research programmes or to development initiatives focused upon improving health. Anthropological methods have been adopted and incorporated into hybrid approaches intended to supplement epidemiological studies. Such collaborative encounters can give rise to a variety of challenges. Some might stem from multiple disciplinary perspectives upon the problems at hand; others from divergent understandings of what constitutes evidence and still others from problems of translation across different epistemological paradigms. Such encounters can be very productive and reveal the complementary strengths of methodological approaches. However, anthropologists can also find themselves accused of a tendency to dwell on specificity or to overemphasize complexity, or they can be pressured to present their analyses in ways that seem to compromise the disciplinary rigour that makes us who we are. Should learning from 'failure' be more a part of our routine practice? Should we concentrate more attention on the ethnography of collaborative teams? Does collaborative success derive from 'outside' the working team as such; from pre-existing relationships of trust among team members? We invite submissions that reflect upon personal experience in the light of these questions.