Prof. Dr. Brigit Obrist van EeuwijkEmerita
Professor of Anthropology
Brigit Obrist retired in January 2020 after more than 30 years at the Institute of Social Anthropology.
Professor Obrist has built up the research focus Medical Anthropology since the late 1980s. Medical Anthropology is an integral part of Social and Cultural Anthropology. It is not a quasi-autonomous sub-discipline with its own methodology and theories (or a special area of biomedicine), it rather puts a thematic focus on health and medicine, that is investigated with the same methodological and theoretical approaches as other thematic fields of anthropology. Together with closely related social science disciplines, medical anthropology opens a space for an examination of recent developments in the life sciences and biomedicine, including the widespread politicization of medicine, human life, and biotechnology.
Brigit Obrist was particularly interested in a critically engaged medical anthropology. Together with her research group, she developed this approach especially in a long-term collaboration with the Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute (an associated research institute of the University of Basel).
On the one hand, this approach uses ethnographic field research to gain deep insights into health related actions of persons who are oriented towards each other and dependent on one another and to better understand the social processes that underlie these actions. On the other hand, the approach takes a closer look at the relationship between public health/medicine, power and knowledge in the framework of broader societal dynamics.
The research group thus carried out several projects on social resilience and transdisciplinarity. In two subsequent projects in Tanzania they investigated how older persons co-produced their understanding of health and illness in dynamic encounters with relatives, various providers of health care and social insurance schemes and the research team. Some of these encounters happened across wide geographical distances, between the village and the city, between cities and even between Dar es Salaam and the United Statesor Zanzibar and Oman. These studies showed that also in Africa new developments like mobility, the intertwining of local to global processes and new information and communication technologies deeply change the individual, social and societal ways of dealing with old age and health.