Epidemiological Reason: Epidemiologists, Philanthropists and Global Health
David Reubi (King's College London)
Paper short abstract:
Drawing on fieldwork on international initiatives to control the tobacco epidemic in the global South, this paper argues that the ubiquity of numbers in global health today is related to the influence of epidemiological styles of reasoning across the field.
Paper long abstract:
In this paper, I suggest that the ubiquity of regimes of quantification, counting practices, metrics and numbers in contemporary global health comes from the way in which the field has been shaped by epidemiological styles of reasoning - grids of intelligibility and action articulated around theories, techniques and institutions that stem from epidemiology and related bodies of knowledge. In contrast to much of the literature on the subject, which focuses on the shortcomings of epidemiological reason, the paper draws attention to the productive dimension of epidemiologists and epidemiological knowledge by showing how they contribute to the production of new forms of government and accountability of life. Furthermore, eschewing the often vague and facile association of epidemiological reason with neoliberal theories and audit culture found in much of the literature, the paper also seeks to emphasise the much longer and more complex genealogy of this thought style. To do this, the article focuses on the efforts of the Bloomberg and Gates foundations to address the smoking epidemic in the developing world, which I have been researching over the last few years.
Anthropology of health indicators and statistics