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"From International to Global: Knowledge, Diseases and the Postwar Government of Health."

Periodic Report Summary 2 - GLOBHEALTH (From International to Global: Knowledge, Diseases and the Postwar Government of Health.)

The aim of this project is to historicize and to localize the idea of the transition from international to global health in order to focus on processes of globalization thus avoiding essentialist debates about the true nature of the global. History is needed to balance a widespread fascination for most recent innovations, be they technical, institutional or social; a fascination, which results in the danger of taking the tree for the forest, the future for the present, the experimental for the routine. Localization is needed because the ‘international’ or the ‘global’ are not given but complex and collectively constructed realities. As the term ‘glocal’ reminds us: globalization does not exist outside processes of generalization from – circulation and aggregation of - local practices while any global agenda or program only becomes real when adopted, resisted and adapted by local actors.

GLOBHEALTH is a social and historical study of the transition between the two regimes, which have characterized the government of health after World War II: the regime of international public health, dominating during the first decades of the postwar era, which was centered on eradication policies, nation-states and international UN organizations; the present regime of global health, which emerged in the 1980s and is centered on risk management and chronic diseases, market-driven regulations, and private-public alliances.. This transition will be approached in terms of actors, forms of knowledge, tools and practices. The project focuses on the tensions and social dynamics underlying five issues: a) the emergence of post-national institutions of health governance; b) the failed model of the epidemiological transition with the blurred boundaries between communicable and non-communicable diseases; c) the uneven effects of pharmaceuticalization on health interventions; d) the new relationship between health, growth and economics; e) the generalization of risks as targets and means of action.
The processes the project analyzes in priority include: a) the making of knowledge and the conduct of expertise at the local and international level, with a special interest for the work and circulation of so-called “global” experts; b) the production, distribution and commercialization of medical products, with a particular interest in drugs and therapeutic agents; c) the various forms of regulation involved in the management of prevention and clinical care, with a peculiar interests for the role of professional and academic bodies, national authorities and international organizations involved in the design and implementation of public health programs.

GLOBHEALTH approaches these questions through a series of specific and local studies in order to in order to grasp how categories, standardized treatment regimens, industrial products, management tools or specific specialties have become elements in our present global government of health. The four fields selected are tuberculosis, mental health, traditional medicine and medical genetics.
The team of 11 anthropologists and historians participating in the first three years of the project has thus far conducted inquiries combining archival work, oral history and ethnography both in international and local sites with strong interests in: a) the changing roles of WHO; b) the developments taking place in India, Mexico, West and East Africa. The team has published 14 articles, 6 book chapters and is currently finalizing one edited volume and two special issues of journals based on three international conferences organized since 2015.