Professor of Anthropology Susan Reynolds Whyte has contributed with a chapter titled 'Health' in the newly published book Critical Terms for the Study of Africa. The book considers the legacies that have shaped the Western World's understanding of Africa and its place within the conceptual grammar of contemporary world affairs.
It is widely recognized that health and disease are biosocial phenomena. That is, the biological conditions we know as sickness and infirmity are heavily determined by social, economic, and political factors. Likewise, it is generally acknowledged that meaning and morality intertwine with scientific understandings of bodily and mental conditions and affect the response to them.
In African societies this sociality and morality of suffering and alleviation are explicit in characteristic ways that have been explored by generations of scholars. Sociality and morality are relevant to illness and debility in at least three ways: in considerations of cause; in the search for treatment; and in the provision of care. The critical terms for health as a social condition can be framed as accountability, connections, and concern.
Susan Reynolds Whyte, Health, Critical Terms for the Study of Africa, University of Chicago Press, December 2018.