Released this January 2016 from Cornell University Press is Judith Lasker’s Hoping to Help: The Promises and Pitfalls of Global Health Volunteering (available for purchase here.) Lasker’s book examines the phenomenon of overseas medical volunteering, wherein individuals from wealthier countries travel for short periods to the developing world to offer humanitarian aid and medical services. These volunteers are sponsored by churches, non-profit organizations, or arrive in poorer countries via for-profit “voluntourism” companies that plan such travel.
Through participant observation, surveys, and interviews with volunteers, key figures in humanitarian organizations, and volunteer staff members native to developing nations, Lasker examines the impact of these ventures on host communities. She weighs present arguments that suggest that global health volunteering is a form of neo-colonialism, that this form of humanitarianism may cross ethical boundaries in the host community, and that volunteers’ need to “give back” may be otherwise misguided and harmful. Lasker places special emphasis on how volunteer organizations themselves benefit from the work of volunteers in developing countries. She likewise addresses whether or not these organizations’ objectives are truly responsive to the needs of the host community, or to what the host community identifies as a concern. She then weighs whether such aims place the volunteer’s experience ahead of the needs of the people who are the perceived recipients of aid.
Lasker’s text will be of equal interest to global health scholars and medical anthropologists and sociologists. Its attention to neo-colonialism and themes of globalization and power will likewise interest scholars who study global development and cross-cultural biomedicine.
About the author: Judith N. Lasker is N.E.H. Distinguished Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Lehigh University in Pennsylvania.
This week, we are featuring two book releases from the University of Chicago Press. The first book is Gregory Mitchell’s Tourist Attractions: Performing Race and Masculinity in Brazil’s Sexual Economy. This new book, published in December 2015, presents an ethnographic perspective on gay sex tourism in Rio de Janeiro, Salvador de Bahia, and the Amazon. Mitchell examines issues of race, masculinity, and sexual identity amongst both sex workers and sex tourists. In particular, he asks how men of various racial, cultural, and national backgrounds come to understand their own identities and one another’s within this complex series of commercial, sexual, and cultural exchanges. Details about the book can be found here.
About the author: Gregory Mitchell is assistant professor at Williams College, where he teaches in the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies program and in the Department of Anthropology and Sociology.
Image via UC Press website
The second book, debuting in September 2016, is Hallam Stevens’ Biotechnology and Society: An Introduction (cover image not yet available.) Each chapter of the text will address a different topic in the cultural and historical study of biotechnology, from gene patents, to genetically-modified foods, to genetic testing and disability, assisted reproductive technologies (ARTs), and the intersections of race, diversity, and biotechnologies. The text will be of equal interest to scholars of science and technology studies (STS), posthuman theory, and the history and culture of medical technology. Details about the book can be found here.
About the author: Hallam Stevens is assistant professor at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore. He teaches courses in the history of the life sciences and information technologies. He is the author of Life Out of Sequence: A Data-Driven History of Bioinformatics, also available here via the University of Chicago Press.