Vinh-Kim Nguyen

Vinh-Kim Nguyen is a practising physician and medical anthropologist. He holds appointments in Anthropology and Global Health at the École de Santé publique de l'Université de Montréal, the Graduate Institute in Geneva, and the Fondation Maison des Sciences de l'Homme in Paris. His current research, funded in part through an ERC Consolidator Grant, analyses attempts to eliminate contemporary epidemics, focussing on HIV, Ebola, and multi-drug resistant war wound infections. He coordinates the social science team of the Inserm/NIH Prevac Vaccine trial in West Africa, and advises WHO's emerging epidemics Blueprint and MSF's "CRASH" humanitarian research unit.  With Eileen Moyer he is the co-founding editor of Medicine, Anthropology, Theory, the first open access journal in Medical Anthropology. He and Margaret Lock have recently completed a fully revised second edition of An Anthropology of Biomedicine. 

Presentation Abstract

Of what is global health the symptom: Authorization, value, and anticipation after Ebola

This talk articulates a conceptual architecture to account for global health as emerging planetary infrastructure and as epistemological form. Drawing on fieldwork in the recent West African Ebola epidemic, vaccination campaigns in its wake, and more recent work in conflict medicine it explores three theoretical designs.

1. The first draws on Foucault’s Birth of the Clinic to explore how the emergence of a globalized clinic (clinical archipelago) constitutes a new centre of authorization for specific human/nonhuman transactions and entities. Possible examples include Ebola vaccines, oneHealth, and bat-human interactions; stem cell therapies.

2. The second, pace Marx, starts from the thesis that biomedicine will be to the 21st century what the industrial revolution was to the 19th. It draws on anthropologies of biocapital and ethnographies of biotech of epidemiological life (clinical trials, Ebola; symptom as surplus value; populations as infectious disease reservoirs as negative value) to explore how biomedical technologies conjure or enable new regimes of value, new markets, new labours.

3. The third puts into conversation ethnographies of military and epidemiological preparedness, of divination and omens, and of legal régimes that inscribe the future anterior to explore how global health constitutes a régime of anticipation and a machine for making the future, in the arenas of prediction

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