Ara Wilson, Associate Professor of Women’s Studies and Cultural Anthropology, Duke University
The Geography of Standards and Transnational Medicine in Thailand
In the 21st century, medical care is characterized by heightened global flows of patients, doctors, and technology, notably in a form named “medical tourism.” My paper brings attention to another flow shaping transnational healthcare, which is that of standards. Protocols, accreditation, and guidelines deriving from a range of sources are ubiquitous in modern medicine and have weighted import for the viability of services in the Global South that cater to foreigners. With a focus on Thailand, a major destination for medical travelers, my paper explains the production and mobility of these immaterial objects and considers their enactments in foreigner medical services. Understanding the symbolic-material effects of standards (like ISO) in constituting transnational sites of elite medical care deepens an understanding of the changing geography of health care.
Ara Wilson’s work contributes to the feminist study of globalization and to what she calls queer political economy (QPE). Through research informed by an ethnographic lens, her aim is to generate descriptions of social life within conditions shaped by transnational flows, especially operations of global capitalism. This requires combining attention to economics (which she undertakes with qualitative, heterodox approaches) with feminist, queer, and post-colonial theories about social arrangements and about our ways of thinking about them. She has conducted long-term fieldwork in Bangkok, Thailand exploring changes to sexuality, gender and ethnicity in non-Western modernity. She is working on two projects. One is a book project, Sexual Latitudes, that ponders how the stage for sexuality is now global, for example through new forms of international sexual politics in the UN orbit or the alter-globalization movements. This interest also extends to reflecting on the concept of “intimacy” as a rubric in feminist and queer analysis and pondering the unfulfilled intersection of feminist/queer and economic analysis. A second project examines medical tourism to Thailand and Singapore, which continues her interests in the interplay of globalization and intimate, embodied life.