Sensitive encounters in medical aid: the Cuban mission in Brazil
Paper short abstract:
Focussing the Cuban medical mission in Brazil, the paper explores sensitive encounters and emergent socialities in South-South medical aid that go beyond postcolonial imaginaries of help-givers and help-receivers in medical work and humanitarian care.
Paper long abstract:
For more than 50 years, Cuba has been one of the most important players in the field of international medical cooperation and humanitarian medical aid in the Global South. Between 2013 and 2016, Cuba maintained one of its largest cooperation with Brazil: nearly 11,400 Cuban physicians were sent to work within the framework of the Brazilian health program "More-Doctors for Brazil", which was implemented to improve Brazil's precarious public health sector. Yet, like in some other international medical enterprises before, established discursive figurations - like debt, solidarity and mission - did not adopt easily to on-site encounters between Cuban physicians, the local population and the local medical staff. The paper will explore these local encounters from a sensitive ethnographic perspective. I will focus on the multilayered local negotiations between Cuban and Brazilian health professionals and patients taking place around moral responsibility, humanitarian emotion and professional recognition, by discussing ethnographic findings in family clinics situated in urban poverty regions in Rio de Janeiro. I will argue that emergent socialities in these particular settings are not only shaped by wider social (and postcolonial) imaginaries of help-givers and help-receivers in medical work and humanitarian care, comprising categories such as race, nationality, class and gender, but how they become traversed and reshaped by intimate bodily and emotional interaction within these local sensitive encounters.
International intervention professionals - aid workers on the move