Course Spotlight: Health, Healing, and Science in Africa and the African Diaspora

Image of mapCourse Description

Theoretical perspectives from Science and Technology Studies have become increasingly influential in the study of health in Africa and the African Diaspora in recent years. The scholarly turn toward bio-politics and the examination of vernacular science has challenged the relevance of deeply embedded polarities – traditional versus modern, African healing versus biomedicine – that have long inspired studies of medicine and illness in Africa. At the same time, the study of healing practices in the multiple diasporas of the African Atlantic world has begun to illuminate the contribution of African ideas and practices in areas of significance well beyond the African continent. The result of these intellectual transformations is that the study of health in Africa and the African Diaspora is more capacious than ever.

New frontiers of research and inquiry are developing as a result of conversations among humanists, scientists, and social scientists. This course will examine the historical and anthropological literature on health and disease in Africa and the African Diaspora, and explore the possibilities and potential pitfalls of deeper engagement by scholars in these fields with those working on the history of science and medicine and beyond. We will also examine the ways in which different historical perspectives inform and transform our understanding of more contemporary developments, such as the emergence of medical humanitarianism and the flourishing of health-related-non-governmental organizations in the Global South.

As part of the seminar, four external visitors – Duana Fullwiley (Stanford), Nancy Hunt (Michigan), Julie Livingston (Rutgers), and Todd Ochoa (University of North Carolina) – will discuss their work with participants in the course.

Enrollment details

HISTORY 861: Seminar-The History of Africa / MED HIST 919: Graduate Studies in Medical History
3 credits
W 1:20-3:20PM, 5245 Mosse Humanities Building
Team-taught by Professors Pablo Gomez and Neil Kodesh

Contact Professor Gomez and Professor Kodesh for permission to enroll in the course.

About the instructors

Pablo Gómez is as Assistant Professor in the Department of Medical History at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. His work examines the history of medicine and corporeality in the early modern African and Iberian Atlantic worlds. Dr. Gómez’s current book project examines black ideas and practices related to bodies, health, illness, and death in the seventeenth century Spanish Caribbean. He has been the recipient of an ACLS-Early Career Fellowship, an ACLS-Mellon Dissertation Completion Fellowship, a John Carter Brown Library-Paul W. McQuillen Fellowship and two Major Project Grants from the British Library. He has published several articles and chapters in journals and edited volumes in the US and Germany.

Neil Kodesh is an historian of Africa with a particular emphasis on the Great Lakes region. His research and teaching interests center on health and healing, historical anthropology, and methodologies for writing early African history. His first book, Beyond the Royal Gaze: Clanship and Public Healing in Buganda, won the Melville Herskovits Prize of the African Studies Association.

About the course

This course is supported by a grant for the advancement of area and international studies from the College of Letters and Science, the Division of International Studies, and the International Institute, with funds originating from a Mellon Foundation grant to the College of Letters and Science.

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