Speculative Markets

Drug Circuits and Derivative Life in Nigeria

Speculative Markets

Experimental Futures

More about this series

Book Pages: 256 Illustrations: 8 illustrations Published: August 2014

African Studies, Anthropology > Medical Anthropology, Globalization and Neoliberalism

In this unprecedented account of the dynamics of Nigeria's pharmaceutical markets, Kristin Peterson connects multinational drug company policies, oil concerns, Nigerian political and economic transitions, the circulation of pharmaceuticals in the Global South, Wall Street machinations, and the needs and aspirations of individual Nigerians. Studying the pharmaceutical market in Lagos, Nigeria, she places local market social norms and credit and pricing practices in the broader context of regional, transnational, and global financial capital. Peterson explains how a significant and formerly profitable African pharmaceutical market collapsed in the face of U.S. monetary policies and neoliberal economic reforms, and she illuminates the relation between that collapse and the American turn to speculative capital during the 1980s. In the process, she reveals the mutual constitution of financial speculation in the drug industry and the structural adjustment plans that the IMF imposed on African nations. Her book is a sobering ethnographic analysis of the effects of speculation and "development" as they reverberate across markets and continents, and play out in everyday interpersonal transactions of the Lagos pharmaceutical market.


“Peterson’s account, which at times personifies this complex history through dialogue and vivid scene setting, does not offer solutions per se but may be instructive in understanding challenges in other countries that rely on informal markets, as well as how global market forces can have a ripple effect.”  — Jessica Bylander, Health Affairs

"The account Speculative Markets provides is itself is densely layered, mimicking the story it tells. The tone and approach shifts and turns as Peterson guides us through Idumota’s crowded marketplace and through global capital." — Anne Pollock, Medical Anthropology Quarterly

Speculative Markets tells a remarkable story of market creation, destruction, and rebuilding. It is a clear-sighted, hard-hitting book, but not a despairing one (it ends, in fact, on a distinctively optimistic note). It is also a book that demonstrates the contribution that ethnographic research can make to our understanding of the lives of pharmaceuticals…” — Javier Lezaun, Somatosphere

“[A] highly-detailed, carefully analyzed and enlightening piece of work, illuminating much of the complexities of African drug markets (and of markets and industries beyond Africa), with insights that will appeal to a broad audience.” — Emilie Cloatre, Somatosphere

“Kristin Peterson’s work finds root here and adds fresh perspective to well-worn conversation of drug markets and their machinations. … This is an important contribution, and it comes during a vital moment in global health. As diverse fields of research and industry continue to work toward equity of health for all, and attention is increasingly oriented forward, it is my hope that Peterson’s attention to historical detail can be a tool for thinking about how to proceed.”
— Ryan Whitacre, Global Public Health

“Kristin Peterson’s new ethnography looks carefully at the Nigerian pharmaceutical market, paying special attention to the ways that the drug trade links West Africa within a larger global economy. … The book avoids the usual discourse of corporate greed, instead focusing on the ‘structural logics of pharmaceutical capital through which corporate practices can be understood.’ It is a timely and fascinating study.” — Carla Nappi, New Books in Sociology

“Peterson suggests that an anthropology of global health might tell us about the transition from state-based production of health to a global one. It elucidates how global economic processes effecting pharmaceuticals have local outcomes, how processes relying on global connections are at work in the making of health. Most importantly she shows how market systems are delivering health care and the effects of these less planned economies on quality and access to pharmaceuticals simultaneously generating uncertainty and capital for those who trade in them.” — Andrew McDowell, Biosocieties

"Speculative Markets is a boldly compelling example of ethnography that is at once thoroughly grounded in extensive fieldwork in one place..., but also situated in a rich and impressive historical narrative and a remarkably comprehensive account of relevant large-scale political-economic forces.... Peterson’s outstanding book will be of interest to historians, anthropologists, sociologists, and political scientists, equally worth reading if one is an Africa specialist or a student of the history of medicine, public health, or global political economy." — Daniel Jordan Smith, Bulletin of the History of Medicine

"A captivating, beautifully written description of the dynamics of Nigeria’s drug industry." — Olubukola S. Adesina, African Studies Quarterly

"Peterson uses ethnographic encounters deftly, weaving vignettes of her informants into more dense accounts of the processes at once local, national, regional, and global that affect their lives." — Neil Carrier, American Anthropologist

"Speculative Markets provides high-quality analysis of Nigeria’s pharmaceutical market for political economists and medical anthropologists as well as for those who are interested in applying ethnography to a complex problem." — Duygu Basaran Sahin, New Genetics and Society

"Speculative Markets is an extraordinary first book. There are of course many wonderful ethnographies of contemporary West Africa, but none that draws a clear connection among legislation, markets, and behavior. . . . [F]or scholars interested in contemporary economic anthropology, development theory, and global health, this book is a must-read." — Kristin Peterson, American Ethnologist

"Speculative Markets brings exceptional clarity to a topic of genuine importance—the relationship between transnational finance capital and pharmaceutical supply in West Africa. This is a brilliant multi-sited ethnography of a market, advancing new theoretical understandings of contemporary economic life in Nigeria and beyond. Kristin Peterson also makes a vital contribution to global health and pharmaceutical reasoning by raising critical questions about drug procurement, distribution, and efficacy." — Julie Livingston, MacArthur "Genius" Award–winning author of Improvising Medicine: An African Oncology Ward in an Emerging Cancer Epidemic

"Speculative Markets changes the way one sees the world. Starting with the contemporary pharmaceutical market in Lagos, Kristin Peterson ultimately narrates a history of the second half of the twentieth century. She makes sense of the massive dispossession in Nigeria without reducing the complexity and range of actors who enable the local circulation of pharmaceuticals, both real and fake. Peterson's ethnographic research and political-economic analysis are phenomenal." — Joseph Dumit, author of Drugs for Life


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Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Kristin Peterson is Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface vii

Acknowledgments xiii

Introduction. Chemical Multitudes: Fake Drugs and Pharmaceutical Regulation in Nigeria 1

1. Idumota: Pharmacists, Traders, and the New Free Market 25

2. Risky Populations: Drug Industry Divestment and Militarized Austerity 53

3. Regulation as a Problem of Discernment: Open Markets in the Making 80

4. Derivative Life: Nominalization and the Logic of the Hustle 103

5. Chemical Arbitrage: A Social Life of Bioequivalence 126

6. Marketing Indefinite Monopolies: Intellectual Property, Debt, and Drug Geopolitics 155

Conclusion. Old Specters, New Dreams 177

Notes 185

Bibliography 209

Index 233
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing

Winner, 2015 Anthony Leeds Prize (presented by the Society for Urban, National, and Transnational/ Global Anthropology of the American Anthropological Association)

2015 Independent Publisher Book Awards Gold Medal in Current Events I (Political / Economic / Legal / Media)

Additional InformationBack to Top