Nervousness and Therapeutic Insurgency in a Colonial Situation
With Nancy Rose Hunt (University of Michigan / Fellow of the Paris Institute for Advanced Studies)
Have historians and anthropologists begun to think critically about “global health” today through long histories of power, health, affliction, and technologies of impairing and enhancing? How long should long be? Contemporary patterns in the mobility of expertise, the instrumentalities of research, and social inequalities surely all have colonial counterparts. But what do we miss if we think in these terms alone, through institutional power in relation to malady and injury on the ground? I will share some stories and trajectories from A Nervous State: Violence, Remedies, and Reverie in Colonial Congo (Duke, in press), which for Congo’s Equateur tries to do something fresh by tracing the nervous and the bio political, while also giving vernacular healing as repetition, terror, and insurgency its full due. Historians have pretty much figured out why colonial biopolitical states are important for understanding postcolonial situations. Some are beginning to move towards catastrophe logics and security states. But therapeutic insurgency? I will consider how coming to grips with such patterns of resort, as events, templates, and moods in a colonial situation, may help us better interrogate the strangeness of global health practice today.