This week we are extremely excited for Julie Livingston, author of Improvising Medicine: An African Oncology Ward in an Emerging Cancer Epidemic (2012). On September 23 we learned that she won the Wellcome Medal for Anthropology as Applied to Medical Problems. The medal, which comes with a prize of £600, is awarded biennally by the Royal Anthropological Institute. Today we have even bigger news: Livingston is one of 24 MacArthur fellows for 2013! The MacArthur Fellowship, also known as the "Genius Grant," recognizes "creative individuals with a track record of achievement and the potential for even more significant contributions in the future."
Livingston's book, an affecting ethnography, tells the story of Botswana's only
dedicated cancer ward, located in its capital city of Gaborone. The MacArthur Foundation says that "by unflinchingly detailing an over-extended medical infrastructure and the families and health care providers who navigate it, Livingston exposes the limits of biomedicine and the unlikelihood that technology alone will fix health issues in Africa or anywhere else. Such in-depth examination of physical impairment and terminal disability is challenging global health partners to address a very real but largely ignored crisis of care in Africa."
Winners of the grant are nominated anonymously and don't find out they have won until shortly before the public announcement. Livingston tells Rutgers Today that while she was attending a conference in South Africa, several calls from an unrecognized number came to her phone, but she didn't check her voicemail until she was returning home from the airport back in the U.S. “I screamed out loud in the taxi,” she says.
Livingston says of her work, “We in the global North look at Africa and, where health care is concerned, we say, 'We will go there and help them.' But if we look closely at a place like Botswana, we might learn something about cost, equity of care, death and existential angst. I want to break up the idea that Africa is so different and only an object of our pity or our salvation complex. I just don’t see it that way.”
Congratulations to Julie Livingston on these amazing honors. We can't wait to see what she does next.