Medical anthropology emphasises the embodied in human experience, and the relational in medicine, requiring the location of a moral sensibility within a broader sociocultural context. This panel explores the way in which morality intersects with subjectivities, in suffering, illness, and caring.
In studying the cultural dimensions of health, illness and healing, medical anthropologists constantly bump up against difficult moral questions surrounding life and death. Medical anthropology emphasises the embodied in human experience, and the relational in medicine, requiring the location of a moral sensibility within a broader sociocultural context. Its research interests range from work in resource-poor settings to the expensive worlds of techno-medicine, thus confronting the material, practical, experiential and conceptual concerns at stake for individuals and communities in adapting to the social transformations created by unending progress and growth. Anthropologists working in health and medicine are uniquely placed to gauge on-the-ground shifts in local moral worlds. In Kleinman's terms, anthropologists can enquire into what matters most in human experience, in the face of health disparities, technical rationalities, and the transplantation of culturally bound universalisms. In this panel, we explore the way in which morality intersects first, with subjectivities, in suffering, illness, and caring; second, with different modes of healing, wellness, and forms of sociality founded on new biomedical knowledge; and third, we explore moralising discourses in biomedicine, and those that result from its cultural hegemony; for example, in concepts of individual responsibility for health and the moral determinism of biomedical diagnoses, all of which can impact on an individual's suffering and determine who can access treatment.