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Poznań, Poland - Morasko Kampus, room: 2.19
Ontological politics under the skin: controlling the global epidemiological situation
In 2000, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced the global elimination of leprosy as a public health problem. Since the introduction of multidrug therapy (MDT) in the 1980s, the number of cases registered globally has decreased from over 5 million to about 200,000 cases. However, although it has been taken for granted that leprosy can be cured after some months of treatment, the MDT regimen does not necessarily lead to the end of the disease. It kills the Mycobacterium leprae and, doing so, breaks the transmission chain, but the disease goes beyond the infection. According to some estimates, between the years 2000 and 2020 as many as 4 million cases of leprosy will be overlooked worldwide. Some scholars suggest that the announcement of global elimination of leprosy have caused campaigns of active surveillance to be discontinued, and a progressive loss of expertise in diagnosis and treatment. Drawing on literature from STS and medical anthropology and based on four years of ethnographic research, I will delineate how both the ontological politics of cure performed by the MDT and the manner in which global statistical data is produced, the “quantitative metrics” (V. Adams), together, take part in the evidence-making process of the global truth about leprosy epidemiology. In other words, aside from the underdiagnosed cases and the drop of expertise, I argue that we need to analyze where and how the global epidemiological reality is ‘enacted’ (A. Mol).