Thematic Focus

Encounters and engagements – it is hard to imagine anthropology of any sort without them, and they are central to the practices and concerns of medical anthropology in particular. While ‘encounters’ suggests meetings and convergence, the question of when, where and on what terms an encounter takes place may raise issues of conflict, displacement and exclusion.

The consultation of clients and health professionals, patients and healers, has been of central concern to medical anthropologists, yet the domain of medical anthropology extends well beyond the encounters that occur through healing work in health settings. Encounters may involve the senses, feelings and emotions – desires, disappointments, pleasure and suffering – or they may be dispassionate, cold and clinical. Encounters can also involve quasi- or non-human agents – microbes, spirits, pharmaceuticals, medical technologies, experiments, governmental institutions, non-governmental organizations, weapons and words (amongst many others). They may be real, virtual or imagined, active or passive. And they may engender change of all sorts, leading to new identities, forms and trajectories.

By ‘engagements’, we recall the rich history of medical anthropologists’ engagement in change processes, in many different roles, in some cases collaborating with biomedical institutions to adapt their programs to social realities, in other cases engaging with recipients by giving voice to their concerns. Through such engagements with diverse actors, medical anthropologists have developed a host of new ways of doing research. It is this positionality of the medical anthropologist, and this mode of interaction with other disciplines and actors, that makes our work unique and important.

A conference like no other…

This Joint International Conference is designed to foster intellectual encounters between engaged/applied and academic medical anthropologists from around the world. The location and format of this pioneering conference will promote the exploration of convergences and divergences between theories, practices, schools and regions across the broader community of medical anthropology scholars and practitioners globally. The conference is being organized by the American Anthropological Association’s Society for Medical Anthropology (SMA), the European Association of Social Anthropologists’ (EASA) Medical Anthropology Network, and the Department of Anthropology, Philosophy and Social Work, Universitat Rovira i Virgili (URV), Tarragona, Spain.

The joint conference organising committee of the SMA, EASA Medical Anthropology Network and the URV invite you to join with the spirit of the conference in order to create new agendas for medical anthropology in the historic and convivial city of Tarragona, Catalonia, Spain.