Of all-road vehicles and working suits: what do medical research materials reveal about post-colonial relationships (Senegal)?
Ashley Ouvrier (University Paris Diderot/Inserm/IRD)
Paper short abstract:
Far from the popular analysis of overseas medical research that usually reduces what is at stake to an unequal relation between powerful rich pharmaceutical companies and voiceless poor non-western participants, this paper shows, through the local actors’ appropriation and diversion of medical research materials that it convey a much more complex sociality.
Paper long abstract:
According to many studies about medical research in overseas countries, poor populations would easily accept to participate in trials because these offer access to free medical care and pharmaceutifcals that the people can hardly obtain otherwise. The danger of this assertion is that it vehicules a utilitarian and passive approach of the poor people towards health care and materials. This paper offers a more complex perspective of this matter. Based on an ethnographic study of a rural area of Senegal that has been hosting clinical trials for several decades, it proposes to discuss the social uses of two medical research commodities that local actors particularly value: all-road-vehicles and working suits. It will demonstrates, the ingenuity mobilized by local actors (participants, fieldworkers, researchers ) in order to optimize the use of all-road vehicles, during and after clinical trials, according to their own local perception of "ethics" (sanitary evacuation services, local transportation etc..). It will show the ambiguous identities these trials may also convey, through the analysis of the way working suits (labeled with the initials of the French research institute coordinating these trials) are valued by local actors (nurses and fieldworkers). The popular analysis of overseas medical research usually reduces what is at stake to an unequal relation between powerful rich pharmaceutical companies and voiceless poor non-western participants. However, this paper shows that studying how local actors appropriate and divert medical research materials constitutes an innovative way to access the complexity, intimacy and ambiguity of post-colonial relations.