Histories of Medicine in Africa/African histories of Medicine

Medicine in Africa, as currently conceived within the academy, largely covers the European experience and represents African thoughts as reactions to European medical ideas. The earliest histories of medicine, consisting of academic microstudies of slave trade era surgeons, missionary healers, biographies of colonial physicians, and colonial policies towards epidemic outbreaks, were grounded in the thoughts and actions of European doctors on African bodies and have proved to be historically incomplete. As it stands today, the medical canon offers neither the knowledge necessary for medical policy nor the contextual account of the African medical experience. More importantly, it denies a pedagogical background upon which young Africans and aspiring medical practitioners can draw identification and inspiration. The future of the study of medicine is also fraught because our knowledge of modern medicine in postcolonial Africa relies on the World health organizations and Western dominated institutions which reinforce the notion that modern medicine is what is given to or done for Africa.

This roundtable will open up the floor to the discussion of the narratology of medicine in Africa by asking questions such as: If the story of medicine in Africa has been overwhelmingly Eurocentric, how can scholars of medicine in Africa change that narrative to highlight the exchange of ideas, practices and material culture, and the agency of Africans? What significance did interactions between people living in the Global South have on the narrative of health and healing in Africa? Can African medicine be understood continentally without reference to transoceanic linkages? In what sense has Africa been a generative force in the construction of medical practice?

Please send information to jonathan.roberts@msvu.ca before April 1, 2021