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“Who cares: A Symposium on Care in Medical Anthropology”

Organized by PhD Students of Medical Anthropology (SoMA) of the Edinburgh Centre for Medical Anthropology (EdCMA), 11th May 2016, University of Edinburgh

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When SoMA members earlier met up to identify links between their research projects, it became clear that the theme of ‘care’ was present in all their PhD studies, but they wanted more clarification on what this concept could do for them in relation to their work. The support and resources supplied by the EdCMA gave SoMA a platform to organize a symposium to explore this topic within a wider academic community. The aim for this inaugural event was to build on the experiences of students of medical anthropology and to launch SoMA as a student group, while creating a fruitful discussion on care with EdCMA colleagues and guests.

The symposium began with four presentations by SoMA members, examining the theme of care based on their recent fieldwork. Bridget Bradley started off with a discussion of care and self harm (“Care and Community in Experiences of Trichotillomania”), Sandalia Genus then took a look at care in global health research (“What Does Care Do? Reflections on the Provision of Care in a Malaria Vaccine Clinical Trial in Tanzania”), Lilian Kennedy stressed the relation of care and personhood (“Who is the ‘who’ in ‘Who Cares?’: Finding the person in Dementia”), and Hannah Lesshafft reflected on the question of power and reciprocity in care (“Care as Self-Care: Healing Practices in a Brazilian Candomblé Community”). These talks were followed by a reflective summary by Alice Street who brought together the collective themes emerging from the research examples and asked how useful a broad category like care is. The morning session closed with an audience discussion beginning to unpack the theme of care.

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In the afternoon the discussion continued with a roundtable panel of EdCMA members. Alex Nading, Stefan Ecks, Lucy Lowe, Koreen Reece, and Alice Street each offered their perspectives on care relating to their work, leading to a more general discussion about the relevance of care in medical anthropology and beyond.

Throughout the day, the symposium explored how care relates to healing, kinship, personhood, gender, power relations, the state, bureaucracy, exchange, and harm, among other topics. The conversation continued outside of the symposium and has rippled throughout the department since this event. The feedback received on the day was overwhelmingly positive, and SoMA were delighted with the outcome and look forward to their continued involvement within the vibrant academic community of the EdCMA.

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