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Biomedicine in an Unstable Place: Infrastructure and Personhood in a Papua New Guinean Hospital

Alice Street

16 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0822357615 / ISBN 13: 9780822357612
Published by Duke University Press
New Condition: New Hardcover
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Title: Biomedicine in an Unstable Place: ...

Publisher: Duke University Press

Binding: Hardback

Book Condition: New

About this title


Biomedicine in an Unstable Place is the story of people's struggle to make biomedicine work in a public hospital in Papua New Guinea. It is a story encompassing the history of hospital infrastructures as sites of colonial and postcolonial governance, the simultaneous production of Papua New Guinea as a site of global medical research and public health, and people's encounters with urban institutions and biomedical technologies. In Papua New Guinea, a century of state building has weakened already inadequate colonial infrastructures, and people experience the hospital as a space of institutional, medical, and ontological instability. In the hospital's clinics, biomedical practitioners struggle amid severe resource shortages to make the diseased body visible and knowable to the clinical gaze. That struggle is entangled with attempts by doctors, nurses, and patients to make themselves visible to external others-to kin, clinical experts, global scientists, politicians, and international development workers-as socially recognizable and valuable persons. Here hospital infrastructures emerge as relational technologies that are fundamentally fragile but also offer crucial opportunities for making people visible and knowable in new, unpredictable, and powerful ways.


"Street's work is a welcome intervention that nuances our understandings of personhood, materiality and the everyday workings of biomedicine in a postcolonial context. A clear and articulate ethnography, Biomedicine in an Unstable Place will be of interest to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as professionals in the fields of medical anthropology, science and technology studies, history of medicine and global health."--Gabriela Elisa Morales "Social Anthropology "

"Anyone interested in understanding the challenges faced by public hospitals will profit from the incisive, empathic, and compelling insights of this superb study." --John Barker"Pacific Affairs" (06/01/2016)

"Scholars of Papua New Guinea and Melanesia will naturally welcome this extraordinary book. It should also be read by those with an interest in ontology, post-colonial science, the anthropology of infrastructure, and the anthropology of the state."-- (04/01/2015)

"This valuable ethnography will interest anthropologists of biomedicine, scholars of Melanesia, and the many social scientists and students involved in global health. It helps readers move beyond global/local, universal/particular binaries to understand how biomedicine functions in a world full of unstable places." -- (09/01/2015)

"Biomedicine in an Unstable Place is an important text of impressive quality. The volume makes a valuable contribution to Melanesian studies, medical anthropology, and postcolonial studies. More importantly, as Street notes in her introduction, most of the world's people now encounter biomedicine in 'peripheral institutions' like Madang Hospital; more attention to the forces at work in such places is warranted."-- (03/04/2015)

"Street's contribution to medical anthropology and science and technology studies lies in her skilful analysis of the multiplicity of hospital spaces. She offers one of the finest examples of how to write hospital ethnography by articulating spatial and temporal frictions, overlaps and shifts in medical knowledge and practice. By contextualising the contradictions and paradoxes running through public health development in a poor part of the world, Street is able to provide crucial insight into people's hopes and disappointments as they are invested in biomedical care. Biomedicine in an Unstable Place is not only instructive for anthropologists interested in the improvised nature of medicine and care in contexts of economic scarcity but also for public health workers and development aid providers who work or are planning to work in Papua New Guinea." -- (10/10/2015)

"This excellent book is a compelling and often moving ethnography. It makes an original contribution to medical anthropology and the anthropology of the state, institutions, and infrastructure. Biomedicine in an Unstable Place also advances the anthropological study of personhood, Christianity, race, and class. The elegance of Street's prose together with her satisfying and succinct analysis of so many complex and urgent issues will make Biomedicine in an Unstable Place an outstanding teaching resource."-- (06/01/2016)

"Biomedicine in an Unstable Place is fresh, nuanced, and well written; it reinvigorates the hospital as a crucial research site. It is written with a keen eye toward continuities and transformations over space and time."-- (08/01/2017)

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