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The Pill and the Liver Probe:Meaning and Culture in Two Disease Interventions

Global Health
Ari Samsky

"In 2005, I drove from Princeton University to the headquarters of Kurtis Pharmaceuticals (KP),* an office complex in northern New Jersey, located in a stretch of green hills off the highway.1 Flowers and carefully tended greenery covered the campus. The office itself—a large modern building tucked into the center of the park—was less impressive from the outside, letting the exquisite landscape speak without interruption. This was the beginning of an investigation of illness and culture, seen through the lens of an international drug donation program sponsored by KP and carried out by many different actors across the world. This essay compares this current and ongoing donation program with a historical case from the 1930s, showing how an anthropological attitude toward culture (considered very broadly to be a set of shared beliefs that animate and give meaning to human activity) can add complexity, richness, and humanity to a discussion of international health intervention. "


Ari Samsky is a cultural anthropologist specializing in medical anthropology and social studies of science. He received a PhD from Princeton University in 2009. His current research investigates the history of yellow fever control in Brazil in the 1930s.