“So, what are the big stories here?” asked Nancy Hunt as she pointed to a black and white photograph at the African Studies Program’s annual conference this past weekend. The photograph, entitled “Congolese medical assistant(s) with or without hands, 1924,” depicted a line of medical assistants, many of whose hands had been cut off during King Leopold II’s ruthless reign over the Congo Free State.
Throughout BIG STORIES + CLOSE (UP) RESEARCH: Health and Science in the African World, scholars like Hunt presented objects, photographs, texts, and even Tweets that related to the theme of African health. Their goal: to extrapolate “big stories” and broader narratives of health from detailed research.
“One big story may not do, at least if one wants to render complexity,” said Hunt as she revealed how details of the photograph shed light on the situation in the Congo Free State.
After each panel, presenters and audience members engaged in discussion. Common themes of the politics and power of global health emerged. Audience members questioned deeply held notions of the global health movement’s influence on Africa.
“The purpose of this conference is to engage in substantial conversation that crosses disciplinary divides,” said Neil Kodesh, conference organizer and Faculty Director of the African Studies Program at UW-Madison. “So many people on campus study health and science in Africa. Our goal is to create a community around this common interest.”
This conference was the culmination of a three-year program on campus studying health and science in Africa and the African Diaspora.
BIG STORIES + CLOSE (UP) RESEARCH: Health and Science in the African world was hosted by the African Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison with additional support from The International Division, the College of Letters and Sciences, and the Institute for Regional and International Studies with funding from the Mellon Foundation.