Society for Medical Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
Powerful pharmaceuticals are readily available for purchase throughout Tanzania and policy makers decry this situation as dangerous and disordered, as if no rules govern the use of drugs in Africa. In the prevailing global health understanding, ‘truth’ lies in the laboratory science that goes into the making and proper prescription of drugs, and such deviations as ‘overuse’ and ‘misuse’ result from the fact that locals misunderstand what these drugs are and how they should be used. My research, however, reveals that much of Tanzanian practice is aimed at determining the true nature of pharmaceuticals, at differentiating between types of drugs, and at establishing control over their variable capacities. In this talk, I explore the practices through which my interlocuters in Tanzania experiment with pharmaceuticals, which I conceptualize as methods of “fugitive science” (Rusert 2017). Like my interlocuters, I seek to challenge the containment of science within spaces of global capital and the neoliberal university. Further, I demonstrate how these practices constitute not only a form of embodied epistemology, but also show how they enable political and moral claims to be expressed in and through the body. I read practices of identifying drugs’ embodied properties as methods of postcolonial critique that reveal and repudiate the duplicitous nature of relations between Africa and elsewhere. I conclude that this fugitive science enables the creation of divergent pharmaceuticals, always under variation; it is an active experiment, located in the presence of a history not yet finished and a speculative opening towards worlds in-the-making.