Faculty House, Columbia University, 64 Morningside Drive, New York
Speaker: Megan Vaughan, Professor of African History & Health, Institute of Advanced Studies, University College London
This paper examines how the concept of ‘metabolic disorder’ or ‘metabolic syndrome’ has been applied to the collection of global health metrics on ‘noncommunicable’ disease in Malawi. It argues that though the contemporary science of metabolism points to complexity and contingency, its application in this context has led to a narrowing in understanding of the drivers of epidemiological change. Vaughn points to some alternative understandings of these changes and also draw briefly on the insights gained from interviews with older Malawians. The latter highlight two related issues: exposure to chemical pollutants and accelerated growth.
Megan Vaughan was formerly Smuts Professor of Commonwealth History at the University of Cambridge and Professor of Commonwealth Studies at the University of Oxford. She is a Fellow of the British Academy and of the Royal Historical Society. Vaughan joined the Institute of Advanced Studies in October 2015 as Professor of African History and Health. Her work, which crosses disciplinary boundaries, has focused on the history of medicine and psychiatry in Africa, on the history of famine, food supply and gender relations and on slavery in the Indian Ocean region. Most recently she held a major AHRC award on the history of death and death practices in Eastern and Southern Africa. She is now working on a Wellcome Trust-funded history of epidemiological change in Africa, focusing on ‘chronic’ diseases. She began her career at the University of Malawi and maintains strong links there and elsewhere in the region. She is committed to working collaboratively with African scholars and institutions and is a past President of the African Studies Association of the UK.