Branwyn Poleykett

I am a medical anthropologist specialising in the historical and anthropological study of science, public health and medical research in sub-Saharan Africa. I am currently a postdoctoral research associate working on the Visual Representations of the Third Plague Pandemic project based at CRASSH at the University of Cambridge.

My PhD Intimacy, Technoscience and the City: Regulating “Prostitution” in Dakar 1946-2010 examined the postcolonial history of the sanitary regulation of commercial sex work in Dakar. Senegal is one of the very few former French colonies that pursued the regulation of prostitution after independence. In Senegal, the legal status of sex work turns on a distinction between registered prostitutes, and non-registered, unofficial prostitutes – the clandestines. My thesis explored the survival of this late colonial policy through archival research and ethnographic work at two clinics. At the state clinic I examined the integration of a programme of biomedical research into the ordinary practices of state regulation. At an NGO-run mobile clinic targeting unregistered “prostitutes” I worked with social worker-researchers who struggled to define “prostitution” in a city dominated by masculine and feminine forms of ruse and goorgoorlu (getting by).

My postdoctoral work was conducted with the AAB group at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Cambridge. I carried out archival and ethnographic fieldwork in Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda examining the connections between the Africanisation campaigns of the late 1950s and 1960s when East Africans sought to replace the key functions of scientific research with qualified African personnel, and contemporary arrangements of transnational scientific capacity building which, I suggest, operate on quite a different terrain. The overall aim of this project is to investigate the long term effects – intended and unintended – of capacity building projects and to explore how different capacities in science are produced, experienced, and lived through time.