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When People Come First:
Critical Studies in Global Health
Edited by João Biehl & Adriana Petryna

Paperback | 2013 | $37.50 | £31.95 | ISBN: 9780691157399
Hardcover | 2013 | $92.50 | £77.95 | ISBN: 9780691157382
456 pp. | 6 x 9 1/4 | 3 line illus. 1 table.
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When People Come First critically assesses the expanding field of global health. It brings together an international and interdisciplinary group of scholars to address the medical, social, political, and economic dimensions of the global health enterprise through vivid case studies and bold conceptual work. The book demonstrates the crucial role of ethnography as an empirical lantern in global health, arguing for a more comprehensive, people-centered approach.

Topics include the limits of technological quick fixes in disease control, the moral economy of global health science, the unexpected effects of massive treatment rollouts in resource-poor contexts, and how right-to-health activism coalesces with the increased influence of the pharmaceutical industry on health care. The contributors explore the altered landscapes left behind after programs scale up, break down, or move on. We learn that disease is really never just one thing, technology delivery does not equate with care, and biology and technology interact in ways we cannot always predict. The most effective solutions may well be found in people themselves, who consistently exceed the projections of experts and the medical-scientific, political, and humanitarian frameworks in which they are cast.

When People Come First sets a new research agenda in global health and social theory and challenges us to rethink the relationships between care, rights, health, and economic futures.


"When People Come First is a welcome examination of 'the actual impacts of [global health] initiatives on care, health systems, and governance.'. . . The authors' empirical accounts of the complexities of the global health landscape expose a litany of assumptions that drive global health and demonstrate why we must be suspicious of these."--Nicole S. Berry, Science

"When People Come First would be a valuable accessory in any global health practitioner's toolkit, and essential reading for global health students."--Jocalyn Clark, PLoS Speaking of Medicine blog

"When People Come First, edited by medical anthropologists Biehl and Petryna, is an informed, critical examination of current, compelling global health issues; it successfully dispels the notion that a single community or country is alone in its health efforts."--Choice

"When People Come First sets a new research agenda in global health and social theory and challenges us to rethink the relationships between care, rights, health, and economic futures."--World Book Industry

"When People Come First presents an important contribution to debates surrounding the concept of 'evidence' in global health policy and practice. . . . This anthology, and the debates which it will surely ignite, provides a solid foundation for exploring an approach to global health where people come first."--Sarah Jeavons, New Genetics and Society

"When People Come First is a strong and ethnographically grounded collection featuring many of the most talented theorists and writers currently studying global health."--Svea Closser, American Ethnologist

"Like with any good ethnography, the stories are real, often troubling, and evocative of real lives in real places. They stimulate anger and outrage. It is a hard book to put down."--Craig R. Janes, Medical Anthropology Quarterly

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Other Princeton books authored or coauthored by Adriana Petryna:

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