Conference Organizer : The Social Coordinates of Illness in Postcolonial Africa. October 3, 2008 - October 4, 2008

Event/Organization Administration

Conferences Organized ; Conference Synopsis: While there has been an explosion of scholarship specifically concerned with HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, this conference hopes instead to use the AIDS epidemic as a way of expanding the definition of illness. The Social Coordinates of Illness in Post-Colonial Africa conference thus aims to explore configurations of infectious disease that exceed the logic of biomedical discourses of contagion, containment, and intervention. In our view, a number of assumptions follow from this extra-biomedical approach: one, that inequality remains the predominant vector of transmission and that social fault lines remain key sites for the entrenchment of disease; that therefore, qualitative and interpretive work has a particularly important role to play in making legible the connections and continuities between social death and mortality; two, that in a global age the intense suffering of people in one part of the world cannot be divorced from ostensibly “healthy” populations elsewhere; and three, that flows of capital, people and things, have played and continue to play their part in reshaping the human body and its well-being, as much as political, social, cultural, and religious forces. In light of this approach the conference, and the conversations it generates, aims not only to map a terrain of disease, disability, and suffering, but to address a whole array of responses to illness and epidemic—whether linked in the strict sense to suffering of a physical kind or as in the case of responses to social unrest in the form of emotional and psychic distress. In addition we seek to examine the relationship between apparently novel modes of governmentality and unique forms of bio-sociality and socialities of care, which have arisen as a consequence. Bridging domains of scientific and indigenous knowledge, folk theories of disease and the sick body, notions of spiritual as well as physical healing, The Social Coordinates of Illness in Post-Colonial Africa will also suggest new avenues of inquiry looking to concepts of beneficence and ethics, care and palliation, faith and spirit possession, as well as narratives of rights, and cultural expressive forms.

Service Performed By


  • Conference Organizer : The Social Coordinates of Illness in Postcolonial Africa


  • October 3, 2008 - October 4, 2008

Location or Venue

  • Duke University