Position title: Coleman Dissertation Fellow (2023-2024)
Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, UW–Madison
Africa’s Biomedical Public: African Medical Practitioners in the Environment, Politics and Science of Disease Control in Africa
“Africa’s Biomedical Public,” examines the place of African medical practitioners in the development and institutionalization of biomedical knowledge in colonial and postcolonial West Africa, as well as the challenges African practitioners posed to Western scientific framings and understandings of health and illness in Africa. I show that the line between African traditional healing practices and “Western biomedicine” was one of continual negotiation and adaptation. African medical practitioners worked with as well as challenged African traditional healers and colonial medical authorities, leading towards new understandings of health and the creation of what I call an African biomedical public—a new generation of Africans who appropriated practices of modern biomedicine and utilized them toward their own ends. My project explores Nigeria as a site of colonial, international, and global health interventions to illuminate the entangled history and evolution of an African biomedical public. This research entails a focus on medical research laboratories, international health organizations and understandings of disease and their environments (including smallpox, blackwater fever, malaria, yellow fever, cerebrospinal meningitis, hepatitis B, Lassa fever, tuberculosis, and schistosomiasis) from the colonial to postcolonial period. African medical practitioners who merged elements of public healing and biomedical knowledge politicized the laboratory and medical college and challenged colonial authorities and foreign pharmaceutical companies over the production, distribution, and access to vaccines to secure African health.
Ayodeji Adegbite is a Ph.D. candidate in the Program in the History of Science, Medicine, and Technology in the Department of History at the UW–Madison. His research interests include the history of medicine, science, global health, and the environment, with a focus on colonial and post-colonial Africa. He received a B.A. and M.A. in History and International Studies and Peace and Development Studies, respectively, at the University of Ilorin, Nigeria. He also received an M.A. in History of Science, Medicine, and Technology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.