Features

The Impossibility of the Inert: Placebo and the Essence of Healing

The concept of placebo is predicated on the opposition between active and inert, deploying this opposition to assert that an action or substance with no inherent active principle can have a paradoxical effect “as if” it were active.1 My thesis is that there is no such thing as the inert in human affairs, relationships, or experience. Think of the …

Features

Musings on the Materiality of Health Care

Nightstand in a psychiatry hospital from Alba-Iulia, Romania. The picture was taken by Odeta Catana in November 2014, as part of a project initiated by the Center for Legal Resources. Reproduced with permission.

Nightstand in a psychiatry hospital from Alba-Iulia, Romania. The picture was taken by Odeta Catana in November 2014, as part of a project initiated by the Center for Legal Resources. Reproduced with permission.

In October of 2014, Romanian mass-media featured the local story of a few dozen citizens—most of them Orthodox nuns—refusing their newly issued state health insurance cards, on …

Features

Rethinking Infrastructures for Global Health: A View from West Africa and Papua New Guinea

This article is part of the series:

 

Medicines“Without staff, stuff, space and systems, nothing can be done”. Paul Farmer’s reflections on his recent trip to Liberia in The London Review of Books reiterated in stark terms what health experts have been saying for months. There is by now a fairly clear consensus in the global health community that the uncontrolled spread of Ebola in West Africa …

Features

Pesticides and global health: ‘ambivalent objects’ in anthropological perspective

Pesticides: can’t live with them, can’t live without them

In Sri Lanka, producers of the illicit liquor kasippu sometimes suspend a bottle of pesticide above the vat during the fermentation process. It is believed the kasippu will absorb the potency of the pesticide and add to its strength, increasing drinkers’ intoxication and pleasure. But there is also a danger the …

Books

Terrence Deacon’s Incomplete Nature

Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged From Matter

By Terrence Deacon

W. W. Norton, 2013, paperback, 627 pages.

Incomplete Nature is a big book, literally and conceptually. The subtitle “How Mind Emerged From Matter” hints of a grand synthesis and Terrence Deacon, chair of University of California–Berkeley’s anthropology department, presents a dense argument which defies usual labels. The result is part …