Prof. Dr. Uli Beisel
Juniorprofessor for Culture and Technology in Africa
0049 (0) 921 55 4232
0049 (0) 921 55 4136
GW II, Room 0.11
Thursdays, 9.30 - 11 AM
My work is inspired by feminist and postcolonial science and technology studies, and by medical, environmental and multispecies anthropology and geography.
I have worked on mosquito-parasite-human entanglements in malaria control in Ghana and Sierra Leone, and continue to be fascinated by boundary practices between human and nonhuman organisms, as well as their possibilities of coexistence. My research is guided by the question how we might live well with organisms and substances that are harmful to human health. In this context I am interested in mutating mosquitoes and resistant parasites; zoonotic diseases; insecticides and pesticides; global health technologies, infrastructures and their crises; practices and politics of diagnosing and testing; evidence, speculation and ignorance; and the shifting landscapes of energy and waste in sub-Saharan Africa.
Current research projects
Trust in medicine after the EVD epidemic: Street-level health bureaucrats, the institutionalization of care, and the creation of preparedness in Sierra Leone, Uganda, and Ghana
with Dr. Sung-Joon Park (Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg), Dr. Sylvanus Spencer (Fourah Bay College, University of Sierra Leone), Esther Mukowa and Prof. Dr. Paul Richards (Njala University, Sierra Leone), Dr. John Ganle (University of Ghana), Dr. Grace Akello (Gulu University, Uganda)
The scale of the EVD epidemic in the West African countries has been unprecedented. Lack of trust in medicine has been identified as one of the major factors in the scientific literature, in media reports, and global health discourses, which accelerated the spread of EVD and posed a central challenge to the Ebola response. Our project investigates the social, medical, and historical conditions of the formation of trust in medicine in African contexts. Taking the EVD outbreak in Sierra Leone as our empirical starting point, we conduct a comprehensive case study of trust in medicine in Sierra Leone, a site of prolonged EVD epidemic and radical insecurity. This will be complemented by studies in Uganda and Ghana, evaluating previous experiences of short-term EVD outbreaks (Uganda) and recent preparedness interventions in a neighboring country (Ghana). In these three country case studies we analyze how and to what extent trust is built in health service delivery. We ask how trust relations have been shaped by the EVD outbreak, how trust is being (re)built in health service delivery after the EVD epidemic, and to what extent trust forms the social basis for epidemic preparedness. Comparing individual and collective experiences of the institutionalization of care in Sierra Leone with Uganda and Ghana enables us to produce a systematic and in-depth analysis of trust in contexts of radical insecurity and poverty. Such an analysis grounded in the lived everyday realities in African countries is urgently needed in order to devise culturally appropriate and locally accepted epidemic preparedness measures.
Funded by the German Research Foundation, 2016 - 2019
Translating Global Health Technologies: Standardisation and organisational learning in health care provision in Uganda and Rwanda
with Prof. Dr. Richard Rottenburg (Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg), Dr. René Umlauf (Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg) and Arlena Liggins (Bayreuth University)
The project focuses on the translation of global health technologies into new contexts. Trajectories of technologies are analysed as a bidirectional process affecting the users and simultaneously altering the technologies and their capacities on their way to become institutionalized. The concept of translation helps us to contest and overcome conventional notions of technology transfer and social engineering. In this phase of the project (phase III, 2015 - 2018) we are focusing on accounting procedures and testing practices underlying and emerging out of processes of organisational learning. This will allow us to better capture the complex interplay between the use of technologies (e.g. rapid diagnostic tests) and medical data production (information and communication technologies). Focusing on interstitial spaces makes it possible not only to compare different types of organisational learning, but also to link these back to our research results of the last phases (phase I and II, 2011 - 2015). The merging of accounting studies with approaches of the sociology of testing generates new insights into the (analytical) differentiation between “good” and “bad” translations. This will significantly contribute to the priority program’s overarching aim: clarify the role of technologies in the production of order and disorder in Africa.
Funded by the German Research Foundation, 2015 - 2018
I am associate editor of Science as Culture http://www.tandfonline.com/loi/csac20.
I have co-founded and co-edit the open access book publisher Mattering Press http://www.matteringpress.org. Mattering Press provides a platform to experiment with ways of producing academic books that encourages shared scholarship and mutual support as well as novel book formats while ensuring the high quality that is traditionally associated with blind peer review processes. The aim is to begin to reshape the social and material relations surrounding the production of relational work, through shifting the various, often asymmetrical, terms of engagement between publishers, authors, readers, and networks of distribution.
I am an associate member of the Law, Organisation, Science and Technology Research Group: http://www.lost-research-group.org/