CFP: Drug Regimes in Southern Africa: Regulation and Consumption in Twentieth Century Contexts

November 9-11, 2017

Call for papers

Since the early twentieth century especially, accelerating flows of people, capital, knowledge and chemicals have deepened the entanglements of African communities of consumption in global networks of legal and illicit drug production, consumption, flow, profit and risk. In southern Africa today, the ability to provide access to effective and affordable pharmaceutical medicaments – analgesics, antibiotics, anti-retroviral medicines, hormones, and vaccines, amongst others – is imperative to the successes of health-care systems and interventions. Unregulated supplements, stimulants, tonics and other commodities play a major role in the daily self-care practices and expenditures of millions. Moreover, while provision and procurement of medicines for much of this region has been determined historically by racialised and gendered ideas of the ‘deserving health citizen’, diversionary uses, adaptations and repurposing of medicines have also flourished as part of subversive, illegal and private economies of health-seeking, leisure and intimacy.

We invite submissions that shed light on these dynamics and that will both broaden and deepen a twentieth context for understanding contemporary and more thoroughly researched topics such as, for instance, HIV/AIDS. We especially encourage research that explores local meanings, patterns of consumption, exchange and/or regulation through the lens a particular drug, medicament, substance, commodity or therapeutic treatment. 


Relevant themes include, but are not limited to:

  • Chemical biographies: individual encounters and personal regimes
  • Formal and informal cultures of medicinal exchange and knowledge production
  • Representations in marketing and other media over time
  • Spatial and cultural geographies and identities in patterning medicinal consumption
  • Southern African regional and national drug regulatory regimens in the twentieth century: turning points, national agendas, consumers and demands, cross-border and global flows
  • Disruptions of the binary of ‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ medicines
  • Addictive medicines and substances and associated treatments
  • How do ‘good’ drugs go ‘bad’ and ‘bad drugs go good’?
  • Fakes, counterfeiting and chemical trickery
  • The rise of new ailments (and cures) in new social conditions

The Workshop, funded by a Small Grant of the Wellcome Trust, will cover the costs of accommodation for three nights (and most meals) for up to 15 participants who reside outside of the Johannesburg/Pretoria area. To encourage the participation of emerging and younger scholars, as well as post-graduate students and participants outside of South Africa, there are some limited funds available also to support travel. As part of this event, participants will be introduced to two under-utilized archives in Johannesburg, in order to stimulate ideas for ongoing and future research projects and collaborations.

We have extended our deadline. Please submit an abstract of 300 words, together with a brief biography, by September 10 2017. Select authors will be invited to share developed paper proposals of 2000 words for presentation by 15 October 2017.  Direct all enquiries and submissions to Prof Thembisa Waetjen at

Contact Info:

Thembisa Waetjen at

Contact Email:

Deadline: September 10, 2017

Posted: August 24, 2017