Recent years have seen an increasing awareness of the global dimensions of individual and population health. A variety of global environmental and economic changes impact directly on health, as do a range of globalization-related processes from increased migration and trade flows to the growth of global markets in products such as food, tobacco and pharmaceuticals. At the same time, countries’ health systems are subject to external influence more than ever before as a result of global-level target-setting, financial aid, policy transfers and more. Health occupies a prominent place on international development agendas and is inextricably linked with other contemporary development challenges. Our work brings together scholars from across departments and faculties at the University of Sheffield who share a common interest in the relationships between health and health services (at the individual, local and national levels) and global social, political, economic and environmental processes. We take an explicitly multidisciplinary approach, with participants from a wide range of backgrounds including public health, medicine, geography, politics and international relations, sociology and information studies. You can read some of our blogs or listen to a podcast here.
This new research has just received funding from the British Academy and will be led by China Mills, with co-investigators Elise Klein (University of Melbourne) and Eva Hilberg (University of Sheffield). It will investigate the colonial histories of psy-technologies in India, South Africa and Australia. For some, psy-technologies signify a ‘new field of investigation’, which raises new questions about identity and healthcare, and the need for novel methodological tools to research these (Rich and Miah 2017, 86). Yet, while many technologies are new, they are embedded in historical conditions of possibility, for example, calculative and classificatory technologies were central to colonial administration and governance (Ajana, 2013). Through archival work we will trace the historical dimensions of these technologies and how this shapes their reception and implementation, as well as fundamentally structuring how behavior and psychologies are understood and governed. By psy-technologies we are referring to both digitization (such as phone apps) and quantification (such as through algorithmic diagnostic tools).
This research aims to:
dig deeper into the historical conditions that enabled the development of psy-technologies in each case site, through archival work in Canberra, Geneva, and London
foreground a post-colonial analysis – given that each case study has a history linked to the British Empire
extend analysis to include the wider global assemblages of human rights politics and political economy in which our focus psy-technologies are embedded
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Our research team will also be presenting our findings and ongoing research at various events, including: a paper on "The Psycho-Social Lives of Diagnostic Algorithms" at the XIX ISA World Congress of Sociology (July 15-21, 2018) in Toronto, Canada. We have a conference in India on Psy-Technologies planned for March, with our partners at the Tata Institute of Social Science (TISS), Mumbai. So stay tuned for further information!