Global Relational Thinking in Healthcare Research
August 28-29th 2023
University College Dublin, Ireland
In the context of an increasingly neoliberal healthcare market (Geiger, 2021) the recent COVID-19 pandemic has been a clear demonstration of our deep global interconnectedness and need for global solidarity in healthcare (Homma et al., 2021; Geiger and Gross, 2023). It has shown us how important it is to prioritise those interconnections and to put people’s lives before profits – all global citizens’ lives. Due to globalisation, healthcare issues that were previously considered issues that only affect the Global South are now commonly occurring in other nations as a result of quicker and easier transmission (Mirski et al., 2011). It is now clearer than ever that we as humans cannot live in isolation. Humans need interconnection to maintain a balanced and sustainable life (AFRICAW, 2022). This kind of relationship is described in ubuntu by the phrase “a human is a human being only through their relationships with other humans”, which is one of its core maxims, hence failure to value relationships with others equates to failing to practise humanness (Ewuoso, 2021). Such relational thinking is increasingly echoed across the social sciences, including in sociology (e.g. Emirbayer 1997) and philosophy, and it often extends to our non-human planetary inhabitants in the writings of, for instance, Rosi Braidotti or Donna Haraway.
We believe that relational thinking is now more relevant than ever in research within healthcare markets to address global and local inequities in access to medicines and caregiving. With this workshop, we wish to bring together researchers and practitioners who utilize and/or experiment with different relational philosophies in the broad area of healthcare. We are particularly keen to bring relational philosophies from different parts of the globe into the conversation. For instance, how would healthcare equality be fostered in practice from the respective perspectives of Western, African, and South-East Asian relational philosophies? Taking the example of ubuntu as applied in the African context, ubuntu originates from Bantu communities in Africa and in its simplest form means being human or practising human acts towards others – the ethics of ubuntu, as practised in most African communities, translates to ‘humanness’. Whilst different communities have their own versions of this relational philosophy they all converge on similar concepts around communal life, reciprocity, solidarity and human interconnectedness (Samkange and Samkange, 1980; Mugumbate and Chereni, 2019). Ubuntuism would advocate for a relational obligation in the sharing of health technologies and practices within a global health crisis; such solidaristic thinking, for instance, would have likely led the world community to quickly adopt a Covid-19 vaccine patent waiver to prevent inequalities in vaccine distribution.
In comparison, the ethics of care, to use an example of a relational philosophy that has recently become popular in Europe and North America, is a feminist philosophy strongly inspired by technoscience and posthumanist influences. In this framework, care is understood as a practical engagement––it is “everything that we do” (Tronto,1993), which includes our social, material, and affective relations. Care, from this perspective, is enacted in a situated space and time, which is populated by relationships among people, but care also exceeds human relations to encompass ‘more-than’humans’ (Puig de la Bellacasa, 2017). While the ethics of care, like ubuntu, is by no means limited to healthcare issues, it is particularly pertinent in this realm. Feminist theorists highlight the (often unequally distributed) labor and mundanity entailed in care. This perspective, then, also underlines the fundamental relationality that care weaves, but casts both a somewhat broader net than ubuntu philosophies, moving beyond the latter’s humanistic and communitarian stances into questions of politics, technosciences, and the ‘matters’ of care.
The ethics of care and ubuntu are but two examples of relational thinking that we wish to bring into conversation in this workshop. Whichever philosophical stance is taken, access to healthcare is a fundamental human right, and therefore ensuring that everyone can maintain good health is a show of shared humanness (and more-than-humanness) that maintains life. Shared (moret-than)humanness as a concept is centred within multiple relational practices and theories (Murithi, 2007; Tarkang, 2018), and we are keen to explore its utility for healthcare research that centres on health as a fundamental part of what it means to be human.
We invite scholars to present their work on relational thinking in healthcare in our workshop held in Dublin (Ireland) from August 28-29, 2023. The workshop is organised by the ERC Consolidator project “MISFIRES and Market Innovation” (misfires.ucd.ie), led by Prof Susi Geiger. Participation in the workshop is free and open to researchers interested in global relational philosophies as applied to healthcare. Upon application, vouched travel, visa and accommodation expenses may be covered for a limited number of participants presenting at the workshop (up to €500 total for participants travelling to Dublin from Europe and North America and up to €1000 total for those travelling from other parts of the globe). We particularly encourage researchers based in and working with relational frameworks from Africa, Latin-America and Asia to share their work and ideas with us. We plan to draw workshop contributions together in a Special Issue of a health-related social science journal. The workshop language will be English.
If you are interested in presenting an academic paper or your work-in-progress, please send a 1000-word abstract in English to firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com by March 30th, 2023 (acceptances will be communicated by the end of April 2023 and for accepted submissions a full paper will be due by August 19th, 2023). If you are interested in attending the workshop without presenting a paper, please drop us an email too!
Please follow us on twitter @MISFIRES_ERC and visit our website https://misfires.ucd.ie/ for more information about us, our project and our research.
AFRICAW (2022). African philosophy: Ubuntu way of life Accessed online on Nov 11 2022 at https://www.africaw.com/african-philosophy-ubuntu-a-way-of-life
Emirbayer, M. (1997). Manifesto for a Relational Sociology. American Journal of Sociology, 103(2), 281–317.
Ewuoso C. (2021). An African Relational Approach to Healthcare and Big Data Challenges. Science and engineering ethics, 27(3), 34.
Geiger, S. (2021). Healthcare activism: Markets, Morals, and the Collective Good. Oxford University Press.
Geiger, S. & Gross, N. (2023). Tech sharing, not tech hoarding: Global vaccine equity and the failed responsibility of the pharmaceutical industry. Organization (ahead of print).
Homma, A., Carvalho, A. C. C., Fialho, B. C., Gadelha, C. A. G., Toscano, C. M., Krieger, M. A., Siqueira, M. M., Goldbaum, M., Lima, N. V. T., & Savino, W. (2021). Covid-19 pandemic, R&D, vaccines, and the urgent need of UBUNTU practice. Lancet regional health. Americas, 1, 100020.
Mirski, T., Bartoszcze, M., & Bielawska-Drózd, A. (2011). Globalizacja a choroby zakaźne [Globalization and infectious diseases]. Przeglad epidemiologiczny, 65(4), 649–655.
Mugumbate, J., & Chereni, A. (2019). Using African Ubuntu theory in social work with children in Zimbabwe. AJSW, 9(1), 27–34.
Murithi, T. (2007). A local response to the global human rights standard: The ubuntu perspective on human dignity. Globalisation, Societies and Education, 5(3), 277–286. doi:10.1080/14767720701661966
de La Bellacasa, M. P. (2017). Matters of care: Speculative ethics in more than human worlds (Vol. 41). U of Minnesota Press.
Samkange, S. and Samkange, T. M. (1980). Hunhuism or Ubuntuism: A Zimbabwean indigenous political philosophy. Harare: Graham Publishing
Tarkang, E. E., Pencille, L. B., & Komesuor, J. (2018). The Ubuntu concept, sexual behaviours and stigmatisation of persons living with HIV in Africa: A review article. Journal of public health in Africa, 9(2), 677.
Tronto, J. C. (1993). Moral boundaries: A political argument for an ethic of care. Routledge.
 We will reimburse flights and hotel costs only to an amount of up to €500 for European presenters and up to €1,000 for overseas presenters. Reimbursements are subject to attendance and presentation at the workshop and application for travel bursaries, with limited numbers of reimbursed presenter places available subject to budget. Please keep and submit all receipts to us after the event in order to be eligible for the travel grant. No reimbursement of costs will be possible without a valid receipt. If the total eligible cost incurred is less than €500/€1,000, the difference cannot be reimbursed. Costs will be reimbursed after the event and upon attendance at the event. If you incur costs and then do not attend the event, no costs will be reimbursed.