This panel seeks to engage with the social lives of pharmaceuticals, their symbolic logics, materiality and their impact on the world. Do they present a new form of governmentality in action? What might such 'new worlds' look like? Are we creating more 'pharmaceutical persons'?
"All the NGO work, treatment legislation, [and] struggles over drug pricing are forms of governmentality in action… engineering something else, producing a new world."*
Biological and therapeutic citizenships are increasingly familiar since the global pharamceuticalization of public health systems. While this has revolutionised treatment for serious diseases in resource-poor settings and brought access to medicines for the poor into public consciousness it is also at least partly responsible for a globalization of disease classification and diagnostic routines.
The story of pharmaceuticals is one of continuing cycles of imagination and crises - less than a decade ago the Indian government led the battle against Big Pharma by introducing generic drugs for the treatment of HIV, and has developed its own industry producing numerous generic drugs, including fluoxetine. Even as the victory of imagination over crisis is celebrated, a new crisis looms as funding to those countries where the drugs are most needed is cut. Reports are emerging of stocks of anti-retrovirals being depleted in parts of Africa whilst the infrastructures developed to deal with the HIV crisis can offer only vitamins and solace.
The imaginative use of pharmaceuticals is of concern where off-label use of medicines, not only for recreational purposes, but for inclusion in 'traditional' remedies, could signal further crises for the treatment of infectious disease. There are also symbolic logics beyond the simple calculus of scarcity.
This panel seeks to engage with the social lives of pharmaceuticals, their symbolic logics, materiality and their impact on the world
*Fernando Henrique Cardoza in conversation with Joao Biehl