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Department of Social Anthropology

bsas seminar

Department seminar: Ruth J. Prince

The Department of Social Anthropology is happy to announce the upcoming seminar with Associate Professor Ruth J. Prince from the University of Oslo. The title of the lecture is "Ruination, refusal and the body politic: Struggles for the public's health in Kenya".

Seminar paper

In March 2015, the only two radiotherapy machines available in public health-care facilities in Kenya broke down. Public outcry led by the national media drew attention to the abandonment of cancer patients who are dependent on old and fickle technology, left to die if unable to pay for private treatment. For many commentators this abandonment was part of the active ruination of public health-care, neglected by the government in favour of dazzling infrastructural projects and the proliferation of flashy new private hospitals with state-of-the-art equipment. The breakdown of the radiotherapy machines reflected a situation I observed frequently in my ethnographic study of a public hospital in western Kenya. Bodies deteriorate and patients die amidst a search for therapy that is often interrupted due to lack of money. Recent literature on ruination and its affects draws attention to sites of dispossession and arrested futures, and to how people live with the tinge of decay. Taking up the question of whether and how ruination may generate struggle and open up contestations over the future, in this article I approach the outraged response to the technological breakdown as a moment or critical event when practices of living, improvising and enduring amidst ruination spilled over into impatience and refusal. Drawing on writings on affective atmospheres, I attend to these events as the swelling up of collective affects that, although not easy to apprehend and lacking in concrete direction or expression, may have important residues. This material suggests that a confrontation with the ruin may provoke contestations over vital futures, calling forth responses and allowing for struggle and debate.

About the lecturer

Ruth Prince is associate professor in Medical Anthropology at the Institute of Health and Society, University of Oslo. In August 2017 she received an ERC Starting Grant for the project, "Engaged Universals: Universal Health Coverage and the Public Good in Africa" from the Social Science and Humanities panel SH5.  The 5-year multi-sited ethnographic project will start in 2018.She is also part of the project team for AnthroTox, a new inter-disciplinary project funded by the Life Sciences, University of Oslo. Les mer om AnthroTox.

Light refreshments will be served in the Corner Room after the seminar. All interested are welcome!