"Technocracies of care: facts and values in the practice of medical humanitarian emergency" by Darryl Stellmach

Past Event

05 May 2015, 4:00pm - 6:00pm

64 Banbury Road, Oxford

This seminar is organised by The Institute for Science, Innovation and Society, an Oxford Martin School Institute

Speaker: Darryll Stellmach, School of Anthropology and Museum Ethnography, University of Oxford

Abstract: Part of an on-going thesis project, this presentation uses ethnographic narrative as a means to explore the collaborative, provisional and iterative process of knowledge production in and of crisis situations.

By showcasing a dialogue between emergency medical aid professionals, the exposition throws a light on the vast array of facts and values brought into coordination to produce accounts of crisis. The process of “coming to know crisis” generates pathways to action that participants consider both ethical and patterned on rational scientific reasoning.

The presentation argues that when scientific rationality and managerialism are deployed in the context of a medico-humanitarian value framework, the result is a hybrid rationality I term “technocracies of care.” By contrast to Weberian or Foucaultian bureaucracies that apply rationality with intent to administer populations in service of the state, technocracies of care are rationalist institutions that seek to address individuals, exporting “care” as a public good.

About the Speaker

Before coming to Oxford, Darryl worked for a decade as a field coordinator for humanitarian relief operations. He spent most of his career with Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in various emergency management roles in Sierra Leone, Uganda, Colombia, Somalia, Pakistan and Nigeria.

In 2009 Darryl took a year away from MSF to study for the MSc in Medical Anthropology at the University of Oxford. He found he was good it - earning a distinction - and more importantly, he had a passion for it. He returned to Oxford on a Commonwealth Scholarship in 2012 to pursue a doctorate at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology where his research examines how emergency aid practitioners use numbers and values to identify and respond to emergent crisis.

He spent most of last year on fieldwork in the South Sudan conflict, primarily as an ethnographer and, briefly, switching hats to act as MSF’s emergency coordinator in Bentiu, Unity State.