Society for Medical Anthropology

A section of the American Anthropological Association

Special Interest Groups: CAGH

  • Critical Anthropology of Global Health - Mission Statement

On November 16, 2006 members of two SMA special interest groups the Global Health and Emerging Diseases Study Group and the Critical Anthropology of Health Caucus voted to merge. Significant overlap in membership in both groups and the potential benefit of pooling resources, fostering broader dialogue, and building critical mass were the primary reasons for this decision. After much lively discussion, a decision was made to call the group Critical Anthropology for Global Health (CAGH).

The change was timely given last years meeting theme of critical intersections. Two major points of discussion arose during the meeting: 1) Is it time to move from the study of health to working for global health; and 2) Will a new name exclude global health specialists who do not adopt a critical perspective? The consensus was that an engaged anthropology agenda best reflected most group members interests and that the term critical be used in a broad manner embracing several different critical perspectives, including:

  • political economy and political ecology; critical biocultural anthropology and the lifespan biology of poverty; ecosocial epidemiology and the study of syndemics; governmentality; health disparities and medical citizenship; human rights and the health outcomes of structural violence; gender, power relations, and health disparity ; critical discourse analysis of health and development rhetoric; studies of marketing as this affects consumer behavior resulting in defective modernization; the production and distribution of dangerous commodities and materialist deconstruction of commodity chains linking the conditions of production to consumption; critical assessments of health policy; the impact of sociocentric global warming on global health; and the implementation, accessibility and effectiveness of disease control and treatment programs.

The term global health was understood to encompass both a holistic understanding of health and our recognition of the linkages and transnational flows of people, ideas, commodities and ideologies that characterize health in today's interconnected world. Topics of relevance include global health disparities, minority health, global indigenous health, migration and health, flows of health care professionals from developing to developed countries, international health tourism, conditions favoring the rise and global transmission of emerging/remerging diseases, drug resistance, the structurally influenced adoption of lifestyles conducive to chronic disease, pandemic disease and global health policy, global health movements, networks, and public health interventions that transverse borders and are not regulated by state or international bodies, and the impact of transnational corporate interests actions, and commodity chains on global health status.

Mark Nichter
Lenore Manderson