The double face of care and control: Sickness and political subjectivities among Ghanaian migrants in London

Seminar date: 
26 February 2009
Speaker(s): Kristine Krause

Kristine Krause is a PhD student with COMPAS at Oxford University. She is part of the Transnational Networks, Religion and New Migration project at Humboldt University in Berlin and has done extensive fieldwork on the combination of biomedical treatment and Pentecostal healing in Ghana. Her current research is on Ghanaian migrants in London and Berlin. Her recent publications include 'Spiritual Spaces in Post Industrial Places: Transnational Churches in North East London' in: M.P. Smith & J. Eade (eds), Transnational Ties: Cities, Identities, and Migrations (Transaction Publishers, 2008, pp. 109-130); '"Science Treats, but Only God Can Heal": Medical Pluralism between Religion and the Secular in Ghana', in: H. Bock, J. Feuchter & M. Knecht (eds), Religion and Its Other: Secular and Sacral Concepts and Practices in Interaction (Verlag, 2008, pp. 185-198) and 'Transnational Therapy Networks among Ghanaians in London', Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (2008, vol. 34, no. 2). She is also on the editorial board of African Diaspora. Journal of Transnational Africa in a Global World.

One of the key questions surrounding migratory experiences from Africa to Europe concerns a migrant's ability to secure legal status. This paper focuses on the impact of legal status at times of sickness in the post-migration situation. Depending on his/her legal status, a migrant can call on public health services, manipulate the system or rely on informal and alternative medical practices available within their social network and beyond state control. In rare cases, migrants without legal status have been successful in obtaining the right to remain in a country on compassionate grounds. This is a paradoxical situation in which the suffering body, perhaps AIDS-infected, can become a powerful tool in addressing the state for care on human-rights grounds in order to allow control over the infectious disease (cf. Fassin 2001a). This double face of care and control can be theorized through the lens of recent writings on new forms of bio-political (Fassin 2001), biological (Petryna 2002, Rose & Novas 2006) and therapeutic citizenship (Nguyen 2006). Based on ethnographic fieldwork conducted among migrants from Ghana in London, the paper discusses how bio-political citizenship projects provide new political subjectivities, not only in relation to the British state but to Ghanaian therapeutic networks as well.