David Napier: "Epidemics and Xenophobia, or Why Xenophilia Matters"
Welcome to a lecture by David Napier, professor in medical anthropology at the University College London (UCL)..
After the seminar, coffee and snacks are served in our lunch room. The event is open to all, no registration required.
The need to explore concepts of ‘self’ and ‘other’ through the interface between the biological and social sciences is thrown into dramatic light by two seemingly unrelated, yet structurally linked, events: the first is the recent upsurge of the far right across Europe and elsewhere, with its support for extreme nationalist and anti-immigrant groups based on the xenophobic notion of incommensurable ‘difference’. The second concerns recent governmental adoptions of counter-epidemic measures for limiting the effects of infectious diseases that attribute, often falsely, the origins of disease mutations to exotic places, practices, and foreign ‘others’. Such misplaced responses are, even if misinformed, common, demonstrating how misinformation does not stem from mere ignorance; it stems from the application of questionable, but widely accepted, ideas about health, self, and other. This talk explores the synergistic relationship between a fear of the social ‘foreigner’ and a fear of biologically foreign bodies. In doing so, I argue for the critical need for xenophilic (not xenophobic) activities which focus on an attraction to (rather than a fear of) basic human difference.
About David Napier:
David Napier is Professor of Medical Anthropology at University College London, Director of the University’s Centre for Applied Global Citizenship, and Director of its new Science, Medicine, and Society Network. Prior to coming to UCL in 2004, Napier was a fellow of Harvard University, New York University, Johns Hopkins University, and several colleges in the UK (including All Souls College and Harris Green, Oxford).
Napier’s special interests in applied research include assessing vulnerability, primary health-care delivery, human wellbeing, caring for ethnically diverse populations, migration and trafficking, homelessness, new and emerging technologies, immunology, and creativity in scientific practice. He has published on law and anthropology and intellectual property and biodiversity, as well as being the author of six scholarly books and numerous book chapters. His new book, Making Things Better (Oxford University Press 2013), explores notions of property, local value, and exchange across cultures. He regularly writes for the press (e.g., Le Monde) and his work and writing have been featured in The New York Times and The Guardian, among others. For his activities with more than 100 charities and NGOs, the UK government and research councils awarded him the first Beacon Fellowship in Public Engagement. He is the recipient of various awards, including the Burma Coalition’s Human Rights Award.
Professor Napier is currently involved in a number of applied research projects examining creativity in scientific practice, the application of new technologies to health-care delivery, and the role of culture in health (including a forthcoming Lancet Commission Report on this subject). He is an inventor of medical devices and, as time permits, a consultant on vulnerable populations in the aftermath of natural and human disasters, having worked for, among others, Merlin UK, CRISIS, The United Nations, and the International Organization for Migration. David Napier is also an artist and videographer, and has produced a number of short-films on homelessness and vulnerability.