Association for Political and Legal Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
What does colonialism feel like? And would you know it was happening before it was too late? Independently of one another, American and Batswana clinicians pondered a gap between what they thought they knew of US-driven global health and their own experiences: “I know it’s not colonialism,” they mused aloud to me, “but it feels colonial.” This disquietude emerged in conversations in southeastern Botswana’s clinical spaces, where both American and Batswana clinicians struggled to frame their interactions as they engaged in the work of treating HIV-positive patients under the powerful and bewildering sign of "partnership" (Brown 2015; Crane 2013; Herrick and Brooks 2018; Kenworthy el. 2018). From the earliest days of PEPFAR, the expansion of access to antiretroviral treatment across the African continent and the emergence of US-driven public-private partnerships for global health has paralleled the expansion of US military presence in the Middle East and beyond. But while scholars have pointed out that the logics and logistics behind military and global health interventions are far more intertwined than they first appear (Keller 2006; Lakoff 2017; Lakoff and Collier 2008; Nguyen 2009), fewer accounts explore individuals' efforts to acknowledge this overarching governance of life and death from within spaces so wholly consumed with "making live." This paper proceeds from the difference clinicians’ articulated between 'knowing' colonialism and 'feeling' it to examine the fears and fantasies that make the imperial force of global health both unknowable and intimately perceptible in southeastern Botswana's clinical spaces.