Bioethics Blogs

Special Issue! Nonsecular Medical Anthropology by Anna Zogas

Ian Whitmarsh and Elizabeth F. S. Roberts have edited a Special Issue of Medical Anthropology called “Nonsecular Medical Anthropology.”  Here is an excerpt from their introduction to the issue, along with the abstracts of its commentary and six articles.  Enjoy!

Nonsecular Medical Anthropology (open access)
Ian Whitmarsh & Elizabeth F. S. Roberts

A nonsecular medical anthropology insists on the ways medicine and science have constituted ‘the secular’ itself through the ‘secular self’—how medical knowing has been used to craft the secular political subject. As James Boon noted, too often in social theory, “religion gets safely tucked away—restricted theoretically to ‘meaning’ rather than power” (1998:245). The authors of the six articles in this special issue ‘untuck’ religiosity from within the norms and numbers of medicine itself, and examine how ‘secular’ medicine has relied on religious traditions to produce political secularity. These articles demonstrate that ‘secular’ medicine relies on religious others whose exclusion bespeaks latent religious commitments of citizenship in the modern political realm of health.

In the past few decades, anthropologists of religion and secularity have provided a vigorous critique of the liberal political subject constituted through the distinction between the secular and the religious (Asad 2003; Mahmood 2005). Meanwhile medical anthropologists have developed tools to examine how medicine constitutes the human. With this special issue, we draw together insights from both these literatures to query the relationship between the secular and health, medicine, and the body.

Gods, Germs, and Petri Dishes: Toward a Nonsecular Medical Anthropology (open access)
Elizabeth F. S. Roberts

This commentary calls on medical anthropology to become programmatically non-secular.

The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.