Jul 15th 2022

TB and Anthropology


Commentary by Andrew McDowell

Anthropology is the systematic study of human life. Sociocultural anthropologists, members of a subfield particularly interested in how humans live in groups, often view TB and TB interventions as a lens on social inequality, the cultures of medicine, and care. Using qualitative methods like accompaniment, interviewing, and shadowing, anthropologists provide detailed accounts of how social interactions might inflect access to TB treatment, follow-up, and even technology [1]. Anthropologists on interdisciplinary teams studying and intervening upon TB can help locate clinical events in global contexts, understand social differences within epidemiological trends, and critically engage programmatic assumptions. Paul Farmer’s Infectious and Inequalities [2] and Eric Koch’s Free Market Tuberculosis [3] are excellent of examples of anthropological work to understand TB.


  1. McDowell, A., Dr. Ram’s Triage: Categorization, Speculation, and Granting Access to Global Health Technologies in Indian Private Clinics. Medicine Anthropology Theory, 2019. 6(4).
  2. Farmer, P., Infections and Inequalities: The Modern Plagues. 1999, Berkeley: University of California Press. xiv, 375 p.
  3. Koch, E., Free Market Tuberculosis: Managing Epidemics in Post-Soviet Georgia. 2013, Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. xiv, 231 p.


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