Special focus section: re-examining biopolitics

biopoliticsThe December 2012 issue of MAQ features a special focus section on biopolitics and related concepts in contemporary medical anthropology. In their introduction to the collection, Rebecca Marsland and Ruth Prince explain that the articles aim “to analyze critically the current fascination with biopolitics through empirical studies in sites where biomedical technology or techniques of self-care are not easily accessible or realistic for everyone.” The seven articles in the collection take up this aim with ethnographic cases from East and Southern Africa, Europe, India, and North America.

It is fitting that this collection appeared in the final issue bearing the names of outgoing editors Mark Luborsky and Andrea Sankar, whose vision for medical anthropology includes “articles that are critically conceptualized, richly substantiated with field materials, and powerfully engaged in discussing specific articulations between the findings and existing literature” (Luborsky and Sankar 2012:449). These articles fulfill that vision. As Luborsky and Sankar put it (p. 451):

The collection is exemplary in demonstrating how we advance medical anthropology itself as a discipline and perhaps for wider audiences. The articles all aspire to extensively and deeply examine and reformulate central parts of this productive contemporary framework, and to grapple with resolute epistemological concerns about how to recognize, evaluate, and use the concept. Indeed, they show MAQ is a place for articles that succinctly present a focused research problem, develop a clearly defined argument, and detail how the argument builds on what is already known, what we think we know and problems in the area, and identifies irritations and gaps, which need further study in a way that does not recreate existing knowledge and problems.

This collection of articles, then, serves two purposes. It advances debate about one of the central theoretical constructs in contemporary medical anthropology, and it provides a model for how MAQ can continue to push the development of the field.

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