Fakes, fabrications and falsehoods in global health
Barely a day goes by without us being confronted with a story about something being fake, so much so that many social theorists argue that we are living through an age of the ‘crisis of authenticity’. This research project seeks to understand how uncertainty and ambiguity about the authenticity of products and activities across a vast array of institutions, actors and locations are reconciled in practice. It will also investigate the moral paradoxes associated with such uncertainty.
The project aims to explore concerns about fakes in two broad areas:
1. Knowledge production and (mis)information – who produces ‘real’ knowledge in academic journals and social media? This project will also explore the growth of shadow scholars and essay mills in STEM subjects and what they produce.
2. Access to high quality drugs and medicines – how do frontline healthcare staff in contexts where medicine quality is a concern reconcile these issues?
Interrogating these areas will inform our understanding of what constitutes authenticity, and will demonstrate that people, policies and places regularly oscillate between ideas of ‘real’ and ‘fake’, ‘genuine’ and ‘inauthentic’, at different times and from different positions. More broadly, this research asks what paying attention to the fake can reveal about global health priorities, systems and infrastructures.
This research will bring together ideas, theories and approaches from various disciplines (including Sociology, Ethics, Science and Technology Studies and History) to further strengthen our understanding of areas of ambiguity, which are simultaneously considered real and fake; the spectrum of possibilities between these two positions will be explored.
This project involves an inter-disciplinary team of researchers and students, working across multiple global health institutions and geographic locations, including NGOs and global health academic and research institutions in Europe, Africa and South East Asia.
This research is funded by a grant from the Wellcome Trust (209830/Z/17/Z).