Appel à contribution – The History of Health Care in Africa : Actors, Experiences, and Perspectives in the 20th Century

Appel à contribution – The History of Health Care in Africa : Actors, Experiences, and Perspectives in the 20th Century

Conference at the University of Basel, 12 to 14 September 2011

Health in Sub-Saharan Africa has always been experienced, debated and pursued in a specific historical context. At the same time the history of health and health care in a specific local setting cannot be separated from processes on a larger scale. Neither diseases nor ideas and practices about health, healing and care stopped at colonial or national borders. Patients, medical practitioners and medicines moved ? whether connected to illness or not. A whole array of inter- and transnational organisations and networks were involved in the development, implementation and negotiation of health strategies in African countries.

This conference looks beyond the borders of colonial empires and national states by bringing together researchers with different temporal and spatial perspectives on the history of health, health care and medical research in Sub-Saharan Africa. While historical studies will lie at the core, the conference also includes other disciplines, such as social anthropology, sociology, political science, epidemiology, theology or international health.

The conference concludes a three-year research project on the ?History of Health Systems in Africa: Swiss Mission Hospitals and Rural Health Delivery in the 20th Century?. The project, led by the Department of History in collaboration with the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute and the Institute of Social Anthropology, conducts a comparative analysis of the histories of three former Swiss mission hospitals in Ghana, South Africa and Tanzania. Its aim is to draw conclusions on the development of local and national health care systems and the role faith-based health providers have played in Africa.

The conference takes up this comparative approach. How did services develop in different local contexts? What were the characteristics of the particular colonial or national setting? And what relationship existed between local practice, international developments and transnational processes? The role of faith-based and other private non-profit organisations and networks will form one focal point of the conference. Another main focus will be that of changing health care strategies and their implementation on the ground in the postcolonial era.

We invite scholars to discuss questions related to the four following panels:

1. Health care institutions in colonial and postcolonial Africa: knowledge, practice, politics

2. The spiritual and the secular in faith-based health care

3. Medical cultures and the political economy of biomedicine

4. Changing health care strategies and development discourses in Africa

Interested scholars are invited to submit paper proposals for presentation in one of the panels. The deadline for submission is 15 March 2011. Abstracts should not exceed 300 words. Those who have submitted an abstract will be notified by 15 April 2011 whether their paper has been accepted or not.

Please send your abstract (max. 300 words) by 15 March 2011 to:

For further information please visit our website:

We would be very grateful if you would make use of your particular information channels and distribute the CFP among colleagues and scholars working in the same or similar field.


Marcel Dreier, MA, Researcher / Doctoral Student
Dr. Hines Mabika, Researcher / Postdoctoral Fellow
Lukas Meier, MA, Researcher / Doctoral Student
Pascal Schmid, MA, Researcher / Doctoral Student

Steering Committee

Prof. Dr. Patrick Harries, Project Leader
Prof. Dr. Brigit Obrist, Project Co-Leader
Prof. Dr. Marcel Tanner, Project Co-Leader
Dr. Piet van Eeuwijk, Scientific Coordinator

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