Society for Medical Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Abstract: This panel is Part I of a two-part panel in which we propose to contemplate that which resides at the limits of the anthropology of health and medicine. By “limit”, we mean that “outside which there is nothing to be found” and “inside which everything is to be found” (de la Cadena 2015: 14, citing Ranajit Guha). Our work takes place within many kinds of limits: epistemological frameworks, ethical and moral commitments, disciplinary norms, ontological certainties, methodological procedures, and more. Papers consider how the specific conditions of their em/placement reveal “medicine” or “health” in ways that have come to be seen as outside such limits—as impossible, unreal, unthinkable, fictitious, or otherwise untrue, but which, nonetheless, are.
How might telling stories differently allow us to tell different stories? How do we create other conditions for tellability that “push up against familiar understandings of ‘reality’ and take us beyond a division of the world into rational/irrational, real/imagined, and either/or” (Mittermaier 2011: 29)? How might we draw upon disqualified types of knowledge and practices (including dreams, possession, relations with deceased kin, witchcraft, and minor sciences) and “play them out against the regimes of knowledge on whose terms we have come to understand them as anomalous, irrational, unrealistic, or simply implausible” (Palmie 2002: 20)?
We see these questions as particularly important in neo/post/colonial contexts, where the kinds of healing and notions of wellbeing that shape the lives of our interlocuters have been disbelieved, disavowed, and explained away not only by the long (and ongoing) histories of colonialism and imperialism, but also by (perhaps well-meaning) global health interventions. Crucial to our efforts to take our em/placement seriously, we will interrogate the epistemic and ontological forms of violence which undergird conditions of conceivability, validity, perceptibility, and truth (Giordano 2014, Povinelli 2001, Stengers 2008). In these questions, the stakes are both (cosmo)political and scholarly: they demand a recognition that our knowledge practices are inseparable from their entanglement with states, post/colonial histories, political-economic conditions, the structures of neo- and late-liberal higher education, and the ways these cohere in bodies, including our bodies as scholars of medicine, health, and healing.