Medical internationalism

 

This weekend, news of the approximately 65 Cuban doctors, nurses and technicians that arrived in Milan to aid the Italian health system’s struggle against the coronavirus was accompanied by photographs (here a sample from the Reuters website) of a group of the medics about to depart for Europe. They are posing in the shot, grouped around a photo-portrait of Fidel Castro some holding (almost) caressing it between them. They are honouring the máximo líder’s legacy and waving tiny Cuban and Italian paper flags – gesturing a brand of friendship among nations long since believed part of the long gone era of Cold War internationalism. But Cuba’s “medical internationalism” (John M. Kirk/H. Michael Erisman) has continued from the 1959 revolution to the present day. Prior to sending medical personnel to Italy, over the past few weeks, Cuba has dispatched doctors and nurses to Venezuela, Nicaragua, Suriname, Jamaica, and Grenada to give aid in the midst of the current crisis.

The number of Cuban medical personnel is estimated to count over 38,000 in over 60 countries, with more then 20 per cent of Cuba’s doctors working overseas. As Gail Harley writes in 2017, “Cuba (population 11.4 million) has more medical personnel working abroad than the World Health Organization and the G7 countries combined. In addition, Cuba has the largest medical school in the world – the Latin America School of Medicine (ELAM) founded in 1999 – which has over 8,000 students enrolled, the vast majority from developing nations. The school also operates positive discrimination towards families with limited means and towards disadvantaged communities such as the black and indigenous communities of Central and South America.”

In Guinea-Bissau, 1974 (photo: Roel Coutinho)

The images of the Cuban coronavirus crisis delegations extend the iconography of Cuban doctors engaged in aiding anticolonial struggles around the world in the 1960s and 1970s. Castro’s militant internationalism has since been updated to considerable effect. With China and Russia (and Germany and others), joining the medical aid campaign for Italy, the pandemic becomes the stage for a revival of a long forgotten, albeit desperately needed internationalism. TH

 

Cuban doctor in the Cabinda Hospital, Angola (photo: Ricardo López)

 

March 23rd, 2020 — Rosa Mercedes / 02
Interface

On Friday, April 6, 2021, at 8 p.m., Akademie Schloss Solitude will host a Zoom event with former HaFI Residency fellowship holder Shirin Barghnavard about her film “Invisible” (2017). Moderated by Doreen Mende. To register, click here.

April 14th, 2021

The magazine MONOPOL currently features an interview (in German) with Shirin Barghnavard about her film “Invisible,” which she conceived and shot during her HaFI residency in 2017.

April 14th, 2021

via Hyperallergic on the environmental impact of blockchain referring to recent NFT (non-fungible token) art sales: “This is not the first time the art world has come under scrutiny for being on the wrong side of the climate conversation. Artists and activists have protested everything from the carbon footprint of physical art fairs to the fossil fuel money funding major museums. But some say the energy consumption of cryptocurrencies is particularly egregious, and research shows it’s relatively easily quantifiable. A study by Cambridge University, for instance, estimates that bitcoin uses more electricity per year than the entire nation of Argentina. (Ethereum mining consumes a quarter to half of what Bitcoin mining does, but one transaction uses more power than an average US household in a day, according to the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.)”

 

Nicholas Mirzoeff on “Artificial vision, white space and racial surveillance capitalism”: “Based as it is on ‘epidermalization’ (the assertion of absolute difference based on relative differences in skin color), AI’s racial surveillance deploys an all-too-familiar racialized way of seeing operating at plan-etary scale. It is the plantation future we are now living in. All such operations take place in and via the new imagined white space of technology known as the cloud. In reality, a very material arrangement of servers and cables, the cloud is both an engine of high-return low-employment capitalism and one of the prime drivers of carbon emissions.”

 

Sara Ahmed on the performativity of disgust (from The Cultural Politics of Emotion, 2004): “To name something as disgusting is to transfer the stickiness of the word ‘disgust’ to an object, which henceforth becomes generated as the very thing that is spoken. The relationship between the stickiness of the sign and the stickiness of the object is crucial to the performativity of disgust as well as the apparent resistance of disgust reactions to ‘newness’ in terms of the generation of different kinds of objects. The object that is generated as a disgusting (bad) object through the speech act comes to stick. It becomes sticky and acquires a fetish quality, which then engenders its own effects.”

November 7th, 2020
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