The political economy of health and medicine in Africa

Dr Sloan Mahone, Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine

This course challenges students to critique the social and ethical dimensions of economic and political policies and strategies, using public health as the organizing framework for both historical and contemporary case studies in Africa. The course will begin with an introduction to the historiography of health and medicine in Africa and will continue with readings from a variety of disciplines and a wide range of primary and secondary sources related to key themes and ways of thinking about public health and medicine. Seminars will offer not only examples that are well documented case studies in medical history and bioethics, such as the Colonial response to sleeping sickness in the Belgian Congo, but also those practices that, although widespread and devastating, have remained largely hidden from view. For example, a section on the ‘marketing of modernity’ looks at the public health dimensions of the promotion of dangerous skin lightening creams or the market-driven epidemic of ‘commerciogenic malnutrition’ caused by the aggressive marketing of baby formula in developing countries. The course will conclude with seminars analysing the impact of the global AIDS pandemic, particularly in Africa, where the complex relations of governments, scientific research bodies, health workers, and the pharmaceutical industry are discussed.

Syllabus and Reading List