Medicine in the Meantime

The Work of Care in Mozambique

Medicine in the Meantime

Critical Global Health: Evidence, Efficacy, Ethnography

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Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: 8 illustrations Published: January 2018

Author: Ramah McKay

African Studies, Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Medicine and Health > Medical Humanities

In Mozambique, where more than half of the national health care budget comes from foreign donors, NGOs and global health research projects have facilitated a dramatic expansion of medical services. At once temporary and unfolding over decades, these projects also enact deeply divergent understandings of what care means and who does it. In Medicine in the Meantime, Ramah McKay follows two medical projects in Mozambique through the day-to-day lives of patients and health care providers, showing how transnational medical resources and infrastructures give rise to diverse possibilities for work and care amid constraint. Paying careful attention to the specific postcolonial and postsocialist context of Mozambique, McKay considers how the presence of NGOs and the governing logics of the global health economy have transformed the relations—between and within bodies, medical technologies, friends, kin, and organizations—that care requires and how such transformations pose new challenges for ethnographic analysis and critique.


“A nuanced account. Medicine in the Meantime will greatly enrich anthropological conversations on health, transnational governmentality, and the state. It will likely find a wide audience both within and beyond medical anthropology.” — China Scherz, Medical Anthropology Quarterly

"Medicine in the Meantime brings much-needed theoretical attention to the diverse relational, political and historical basis of contemporary humanitarian action, demonstrating superb ethnography, and for that reason is a valuable, highly recommended contribution to the field of medical aid." — Britt Halvorson, Somatosphere

"Medicine in the Meantime provides personalized insights into how individuals slip between the various subject positions elicited by transnational governance, exploiting moments of multiplicity while decrying the limitations of care such international aid provides." — Emma Louise Backe, Anthropology Book Forum

"Built on rich ethnographic materials collected over several years in two healthcare facilities in Mozambique, Medicine in the Meantime provides an in-depth view of the entanglements among NGO workers, expatriates, community volunteers and patients that affect health care for people with chronic conditions . . .  Scholars of transnational health and development can learn much from the book’s nuanced insights about how medical multiplicity affects health and wellbeing in Mozambique and more broadly, sub-Saharan Africa." — Amy S. Patterson, Journal of Modern African Studies

"The attention to hunger, the politics of the belly, and the delicate work of allocation all make this book a unique contribution to rethinking how past experiences of care and entitlement shape how individuals experience care in the present."
  — Marissa Mika, Somatosphere

"With this book, Ramah McKay brings a new voice to the burgeoning conversation on the anthropology of global health and humanitarian aid. . . . This range of perspectives is a welcome addition to the existing literature on global health, and McKay adroitly combines lived experience with historical and political context. While her analysis is sophisticated, her writing style is accessible and easy to read, meaning that her book lends itself to both scholars and students with an interest in medical humanitarianism and global health." — Adrienne E. Strong, American Ethnologist

"A master-class in ethnographic writing: McKay’s attention to detail and to her own positionality make for compelling arguments based on her observations. . . . Her ethnography showcases the kind of slow and thoughtful scholarship that is the hallmark of good anthropological research, and is a timely reminder of why this is valuable and necessary." — Michelle Pentecost, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

“The book provides a nuanced look at the intersection of neoliberalism and health care and how patients and caregivers navigate constrained systems of funding and care.”

— Christopher M. Blakley, Social History of Medicine

"Medicine in the Meantime is a major contribution to critical studies of global health. With its careful tracing of the work of care and the politics of multiplicity, it stands as a milestone in scholarship on health care in contemporary Africa. Ramah McKay elegantly combines powerful, close-up descriptions of the dilemmas and concerns of care workers on the ground with broader theoretical discussions of the entanglements of transnational and national health services." — Susan Reynolds Whyte, editor of Second Chances: Surviving AIDS in Uganda

"With meticulous sympathy and an eye for detail, Ramah McKay examines new entanglements of humanitarian sentiment and public institutions in Mozambique. Medicine in the Meantime reveals how care refracts through a prism of varied perspectives, ranging from nostalgic former refugees to harried professional counselors. Anyone who wants to understand what global health looks like in experience—beyond abstract metrics of lives and numbers—should read this book." — Peter Redfield, author of Life in Crisis: The Ethical Journey of Doctors without Borders


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Price: $25.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Ramah McKay is Assistant Professor of the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments  vii
Introduction. Care and the Work of History  1
1. Governing Multiplicities  29
2. Making Communities of Care  57
3. Afterlives: Food, Time, and History  88
4. Nourishing Relations  112
5. The Work of Health in the Public Sector  142
6. Paperwork: Capacities of Data and Care  167
Afterword. Critique and Caring Futures  192
Notes  199
Works Cited  217
Index  237
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-7019-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-7010-9
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