Suturing suggests closing a wound, making an incision, editing a film, or stitching together parts, locations, and points of view. The word is a helpful one for today's historians of disease, suffering, and medical practice in Africa. Whether focusing on a hospital or shrine, on malaria, trauma, witchcraft, or nursing, historians are grappling in new ways with problems of joining locations and viewpoints, of tethering pasts with the present. New challenges arise from thinking about Africa's place in today's world of global health and biosecurity, war zones and heritage monies, emerging medical markets and self-treatment devices. Suturing points to new kinds of creativity with sources, evidence, and interactivity. As new digital capacities transform how history is engaged and produced, the word suturing helps to draw attention to the question of audiences and publics for African medical histories in the 21 st century.
Nancy Rose Hunt is Professor of History (and Obstetrics/Gynecology) at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. Educated in the humanities and medical history at the Universities of Chicago (BA, 1980) and Wisconsin-Madison (PhD, 1992), she has taught and done extended research in Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Ghana. A Colonial Lexicon, her ethnographic history of medicine, childbearing, and therapeutic objects in colonial and postcolonial Zaire, received the African Studie s Association's Herskovits Prize in 2000. A Nervous State: Violence, Remedies, and Reverie in Colonial Congo, forthcoming from Duke, considers the sequelae of imperial violence on bodies, persons, communities, and states. She is also busy writing Health & Medicine: A World History, a short primer with complex scales, for the new Oxford World History Series.