Oral Presentation Session
Reviewed by: Association of Black Anthropologists
Of interest to: Practicing and Applied Anthropologists, Students
Primary Theme: Race
Secondary Theme: Health
Where pessimism about Africa—media portrayals of the “dark continent” as tragically doomed in relation to its problems of poverty, corruption, violence, and poor health—is short-sighted, failing to take into account legacies of imperialism, racism, and exploitation; afropessimism exposes the ongoing effects of these processes and posits black existence -- on the continent and in the diaspora -- as the negativity against which whiteness, freedom, liberalism is defined. As an analytic that illuminates the legacy and elaboration of global white supremacy by positing anti-blackness not simply as a consequence of modernity but at the core of its very possibility, afropessimism has become a crucial framework to understand the extension of historical violence in the present. Such questions become increasingly pertinent in relation to contemporary configurations and logics of global health, where the ethical injunction to care can be read alongside a long history of colonial intervention of which anti-blackness was at its liberal-humanitarian core.
This panel seeks to shed light on the matter(ing) of black life—material, representational, significance, and invocations of humanity—which structures conditions for lived experience. We employ a critical racial analytic lens, engaging recent debates around afropessimism, to explore the practices and ideologies inherent to global health in postcolonial settings across the global south. The papers explore the social, ethical, and practical ramifications of the ways women of color, are seen and represented through careful ethnographic investigations in Brazil, Nigeria, South Africa, and Indonesia. They examine how processes of knowledge (re)production structure possibilities for care, and likewise life. What are legacies of race and racialization for health care in these postcolonial settings? How do global racialized and gendered hierarchies operate in global health and humanitarian regimes? What are the limitations and possibilities of afropessimism as a framework in these settings? What is obscured in afropessimism's unrelenting emphasis on social death and irrecuperable destruction? How to understand technologies and logics of life in the face of so-called social death? How does global health's unshakable optimism about saving biological life lead to the death of certain forms of life? How can we rethink the seeming impasse between anti-blackness and political possibility in the present?