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Title: Sanctified lives : Christian medical humanitarianism in southern Zambia
Author: Wintrup, James
ISNI:       0000 0004 7225 5408
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2017
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Throughout Africa today Christian missionaries from the United States and Europe are providing more medical assistance than ever before and yet they remain, in much recent scholarship, more often associated with the colonial past than the humanitarian present. In many rural areas of Africa these missionaries provide much of the day-to-day healthcare that is available, treating commonplace afflictions, such as malaria, broken limbs or complications associated with childbirth. This dissertation considers Christian medical humanitarianism and its historical legacies by examining the lives and relationships of the many people who visited and worked at a small mission hospital in rural southern Zambia. Based on archival research and fieldwork (conducted between August 2014 and November 2015, and a month during August 2016), I consider how rural Zambian patients related to the expatriate missionary doctors and Zambian staff as they sought treatment at the hospital. I look at the motivations of the long- and short-term American missionaries, their relations with patients and staff members, and consider how they imagined the beneficial effects of their work. And I examine the place of the Zambian clinical staff members at the hospital – the nurses, clinical officers, laboratory technicians, and others – as they attempted to balance their multiple obligations to family members, neighbours, and friends with the needs of their patients and the high expectations of their missionary colleagues. Engaging with central themes in recent anthropological work on humanitarianism, Christianity, morality and ethics, I argue that Christian missionaries, staff members and patients at the hospital enduringly perceived different aspects of their relationships as morally significant: from the missionaries’ capacity to see the endurance and suffering of Zambian patients as evidence of God’s action in the world, to patients’ praise of the American missionaries as ‘angels’ (bangelo) who arrived from elsewhere and treated them ‘non-selectively’. At the mission hospital, patients, missionaries and staff members brought to their encounters the capacity to perceive moral meaning in their relations in ways that often exceeded one another’s expectations. In response to this, I outline a way of understanding the capacity, among these diverse actors, to perceive moral meaning in their ambivalent and unequal relations. This approach, I suggest, has implications for how we think about suffering, morality and politics, both in contemporary humanitarianism and in forms of anthropological writing.
Supervisor: Englund, Harri Sponsor: Economic and Social Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Zambia ; missionaries ; Christianity ; humanitarianism ; morality ; ethics