In June 2017, I participated in a workshop on Cancer in the South hosted by Dr. Carlo Caduff at King’s College London. Historians and anthropologists gathered around a table in Somerset House and shared works in progress on cancer case studies from across the Global South. One of the questions that we discussed is we could more effectively weave insights from the social sciences into conversations about global oncology policy. As a starting point, we decided to clarify what social scientific research can offer to global oncology policy makers. Here is a snippet: 

One of the core challenges of integrating medical humanities into global public health is simply articulating what ethnographic or historical approaches can offer.

“Social scientists are committed to studies that foreground the narratives of a wide range of stakeholders (ie, patients, family members, medical practitioners at all levels and from many systems of medicine, researchers, policymakers) to give voice to the lived experiences, motivations, and constraints of all who are touched by cancer and involved in cancer care. This approach humanizes and adds richness to our understanding of cancer in heterogeneous and complex settings across low- and middle-income countries. Social science research favors studies that span extended periods for continuous observation and engagement. It enables interdisciplinary collaborations and generates unique analyses that other methods cannot offer and that clinicians often cannot conduct given the pressing demands of delivering medical care. A significant benefit is that social scientists usually return to the same research site. The personal connections and experiences that grow over time enable social scientists to have a thorough understanding of changing conditions that affect oncology.” 


About Marissa Mika

At UCL, Marissa Mika works with the research group on critical histories of chronic disease in Africa. Focusing on South Africa, she researches chronicity, co-morbidity, and the synergy between infectious and noncommunicable disease burdens. She emphasises the material practices of making knowledge about morbidity and mortality – from the diagnostic pathology lab, to the autopsy table, to the home testing kit, to the courtroom.