ASA14: Anthropology and Enlightenment


Does eliminating disease produce wealthy nations?

Location Quincentenary Building, Wolfson Hall
Date and Start Time 20 June, 2014 at 16:00


Ian Harper (University of Edinburgh) email
Stefan Ecks (University of Edinburgh) email
Francesca Bray (University of Edinburgh) email
Rebecca Marsland (University of Edinburgh) email
Alice Street (University of Edinburgh) email
Mail All Convenors


What are the relations between wealth and health? Enlightenment thought linked economic wealth and population health. Structured as a round table, short presentations will address this legacy today and open up a cross disciplinary discussion on the wealth / health debate. The participants are Steven Shapin of Harvard University, Tim Allen of LSE, Judith Farquhar of the University of Chicago and Ian Harper of the University of Edinburgh.

Long Abstract

This plenary panel explores relations between wealth and health. A key Enlightenment idea was that economic wealth and population health are intertwined. Adam Smith opined that "No society can surely be flourishing and happy, of which the far greater part of the members are poor and miserable." How does this Enlightenment concern for equity in wealth and health continue to shape current understandings of health?

Two propositions dominate discussions on wealth and health today. One holds that the improvement of health must address broader questions of social inequality and requires enhancement of living conditions (the "social determinants of health" stance). The other is that targeted treatment of disease leads to better development and economic growth, clearly articulated in the mission statements of initiatives such as The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the United Nations' Millennium Development Goals. Diseases are not seen as the consequences of poverty, but as barriers to economic growth.

These framings have implications on how we understand the relationship between wealth, disease and health, and on how interventions and resources are distributed. This cross-disciplinary panel is structured as a round table: short presentations will address the above positions and open up a discussion on how these two frames of reference are being used today. The panel will be particularly interested in asking what contributions anthropologists have made to the wealth/health debate, and what forms of evidence are being presented for the different perspectives.

Roundtable members: Steven Shapin, Tim Allen, Judith Farquhar, Ian Harper

Chair: Stefan Ecks

This panel is closed to new paper proposals.


The panel has no papers to display. Only accepted papers will be shown here.