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Edinburgh Centre for Medical Anthropology: Events


Inaugural EdCMA Conference: Scoping Medical Anthropology

Inaugural EdCMA Conference: Scoping Medical Anthropology
Hosted by: Ian Harper # EdCMA
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Date and Time
5th Sep 2016 09:00 - 6th Sep 2016 13:00
Dovecot Studios

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Inaugural EdCMA Conference: Scoping Medical Anthropology

5 - 6 September 2016

Dovecote Studios, Edinburgh

The first biennial conference of the Edinburgh Centre for Medical Anthropology (EdCMA) will take the form of an intensive 2-day workshop featuring the seven core EdCMA faculty members (Prof Ian Harper, Dr Stefan Ecks, Dr Lucy Lowe, Prof Alex Edmonds, Dr Rebecca Marsland, Dr Alice Street, and Dr Alex Nading); six invited outside guests; junior-level anthropologists who might come to Edinburgh as postdoctoral scholars; and Edinburgh anthropology PhD students doing work related to medical anthropology.  The theme of the conference will be “Scoping Medical Anthropology: Problems from Ongoing Fieldwork.” The term scoping refers both to defining the parameters of a problem and looking deeply inside one particular part of the body (in this case, a body of scholarship) in order to draw out larger lessons.  This conference seeks to do both.

The conference has three broad goals:

  1. To allow EdCMA members to engage in a conversation about ongoing research projects.  By putting each member’s individual research into conversation with that of the other members and our guests, we hope to build stronger intellectual networks out of EdCMA’s already firm foundation. 
  2. To share the breadth of EdCMA’s research with both established and emerging world leaders in medical anthropology. 
  3. To attract a strong pool of potential postdoctoral research fellows by giving PhD students and junior scholars from beyond Edinburgh a chance to workshop proposals and long-term research plans with EdCMA members and outside guests

DAY 1:                                     Monday 5th September

9:30 – 10:00:               Coffee and Introductions

10: 00 – 12:00:            Medical Anthropology in Global Health

Ian Harper, Alice Street, Stefan Ecks, Melissa Parker & Bob Simpson

In this section we consider anthropology’s relationship with global health. Three broad, but interlinked, questions will be posed. How do we make anthropology relevant in the increasingly fast moving world of policy and practice, where a sense of increased urgency, and impending crises is one of the main driving forces? How do we locate anthropology within domains of research and practice whose definitions of health, and ethical imperatives are driven by medicine and public health? And how do we respond to the ways in which ideas of “culture” are put to use by these related disciplines and institutions?

While these are old methodological questions posed by anthropologists working in the fields of health and illness, we consider them in the light of the fast growing and moving domain of global health: From the emergence of new rapid diagnostics and new evaluative metrics that define impact and success (for example in standardized and globalized TB control programmes); to the mobilization of ideas of “culture” in algorithms and protocols of diagnostics and treatment (like the DSM-V in mental health) that are mobilized rapidly in diverse arenas around the world; to the restrictive definitions of what constitutes operational research as defined by development organizations, and the nations states where we work. For many of us, the way that anthropology and the concepts for which we have expertise are appropriated seem out of joint, like seeing one's body in a distorting mirror, and yet we are not able to pinpoint precisely what is wrong. As medical anthropologists, we need to come up with more compelling analytic frameworks for what we are doing, how we are doing it, and why that matters.

Drawing on examples of our work and practice we will explore how, as anthropologists, we carve out a space for research that is independent, critical and relevant, within this new bureaucratic world of health research diplomacy.

12:00 – 13:00:             Lunch

13:00 – 15:00:             More than Human Medical Anthropology

Beckie Marsland, Alex Nading, Emily Yates-Doerr & Ann Kelly

How can medical anthropology position itself in debates about global environmental change and interspecies encounters?  How, for example, might veterinary anthropology be different to medical anthropology? With the growth in recent scholarship on human-animal relationships, multispecies anthropology, and the interest in zoonoses and biosecurity there is a rich new field of research examining the practice of veterinary medicine waiting to be opened up. What are the particularities of veterinarians’ care for different species of animals, and how are practices such as euthanasia, neutering, and culling incorporated into the domain of care, medicine and health? 

Elsewhere, anthropological engagements with the ‘Anthropocene’ have only obliquely engaged the health implications of a warming planet.  Still, evidence suggests that climate change might be a contributing factor in everything from the spread of dengue and zika virus to the rise of chronic kidney disease.  But how much heat is too much heat?  Can a rise in mean temperatures by just one degree cause an epidemic?  If so, what does that mean?  How must we rethink the “social determinants” of health in the anthropocene? Medical anthropology, with its deep roots in studies of health models based on notions of heat, cold, wetness, and dryness, might offer some new and potentially fruitful ground for engaging climate change debates.

15:00 – 15:30:             Coffee

15:30 – 17:30:             Medical Anthropology, Collaboration and Expertise

Alex Edmonds, Lucy Lowe, Tine Gammeltoft & Kit Davis

Often, collaborations with experts also serve the purpose of creating the relationships that enable us to do studies of experts.  Are there tensions between studies of and with experts?  This panel addresses a theoretical aspect and more practical aspects to do with the research process and publishing. Medical anthropologists have long collaborated with various experts and clinicians.  But how we go about doing this, and with what results, may be changing due to changes in global health and our own research goals. 

While there is increasing recognition of the value of anthropology by health experts, it is not clear whether their understanding of what anthropology does matches us our own.  Interdisciplinary translation or mistranslation can create problems.  For example, some anthropologists position themselves as experts in “qualitative methods,” yet within public health such methods may simply mean “less scientific.”  Another way we position anthropology when we want to study experts is something like “the study of variation in clinical practice.”  How can medical anthropologists render slow, invisible failures visible? How do we research the developments that don’t succeed, the futures that never arrive, and the failings that remain silenced behind the rapid advances of such things as embryonic stem cell research, IVF, and cloning? Are experts (medical, legal, psychiatric) interested in ethnographies of failure and inadequacy? The very possibility of presenting a research project as an investigation of variation depends on our experts recognizing such variation as important and worth studying.  There has been increasing cross-fertilization between medical anthropology and STS as more of us study expert knowledge and practice.  However, are there also important differences in how researchers in medical anthropology and STS position themselves to medical experts, conduct research with them, or collaborate with them? Can these two disciplines learn from each other? Finally, how do we design methods and disseminate findings in ways that are both interesting and “countable” for ourselves and our collaborators?

17:30 – 19:00:             Drinks Reception

DAY 2:                         Tuesday 6th September

9:00 – 9:30:               Coffee

9:30 – 12:30:             Developing (new) research from the PhD; Publishing; Funding (Chaired by Ian Harper, Alice Street and Alex Nading)

12:30:                          Lunch and Departures

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