Historicizing Public Oncology in Rwanda: From Geographies of Incidence to Onco-Nationhood (1915-2015)

Presented by Darja Djordjevic

Monday, 2 October, 2017 - 15:00

This paper examines the various types of experimentation that are built into the practice of oncology within Rwanda’s developing national infrastructure, with a focus on historicizing malignancy there by examining trajectories of research and treatment from the early 20th century until the present. In the early 20th century under Belgian colonial rule, there was a general indexing of cancer cases, to be presented here. In the 1950s-60s, Belgian and American researchers investigated cancer incidence in Rwanda, contributing in clear ways to an era that foregrounded what was known as “geographical pathology.” In the 1970s-80s the country was also a site for cancer virology research and transnational collaborations around developing cancer registries, prior to the total destruction of infrastructure and society brought on by the civil war of the early 1990s and genocide of 1994. While some of the broader historical context of cancer research priorities across periods is shared with other contexts throughout Africa, the uniqueness of this paper lies in the historicization of Rwanda’s national oncology program (2010--) and careful analysis of how the history of cancer research and treatment relates, shapes, and complicates the project national public oncology in post-genocide Rwanda. This broader genealogy also heavily inflects the kinds of experimentation that the Rwandan state invests in through oncology.

People interested in following up on this research should contact Darja AT post.harvard.edu

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