Sovereign Remedies: Cancer, Infrastructure, and Global Health in Jordan
Session of the seminar of the Chair of Anthropology and Global Health with Sara Smith, Yale University, USA.
Jordan is in the midst of engineering a national oncology infrastructure to provide comprehensive cancer care to its citizens. By establishing one of the few specialized tertiary cancer hospitals in the region and by introducing novel therapeutic technologies over the past twenty years, the country has positioned itself as a “pioneer” of cancer care in the Arab Middle East. Yet for disenfranchised, rural, and refugee patients, an increasingly privatized health system places many of these “gold-standard” cancer services virtually out of reach. At the same time, recent collaborations between the government, the private sector, and global health organizations aim to transform popular knowledge of and health practices toward cancer through public education campaigns. Prevailing global health discourses view changes in “lifestyle” factors as a key method to reducing cancer incidence and death. This paradigm considers the individual to be the primary site of health intervention. Yet new initiatives, including the Jordan Breast Cancer Program and the Tobacco Control Program, urge citizens to engage in prevention practices such as smoking cessation and breast self-exams not only as a means of individual self-care, but as a crucial measure to ensure the wellbeing of families, communities, and the nation. This talk will examine how these changes manifest in the everyday healing and prevention practices of patients and physicians while exploring the linkages between global health, infrastructure, and conceptions of the body in light of broader debates about sovereignty.