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The Spatialities and Networks of Cancer research cluster examines historically and ethnographically practices that spatialize cancer. Working across the North and the South, our research pays particular attention to South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Medical mapping, often promoted by powerful actors, renders epidemics visible, tells stories about their origins, traces pathways of transmission, and predicts potential future courses. Underpinning these mapping practices are historically distinct socio-technical infrastructures and political rationalities as well as culturally specific understandings of disease and place.

But diseases such as cancer are not only spatialized; they can also become media of spatialisation themselves, allowing states to mark their presence in important electoral regions by inaugurating spectacular flagship hospitals, for example, or scientific institutions to extend the power and reach of their concepts by sponsoring new research and clinical infrastructures. In this way, it is not only disease that is territorialized but disease itself becomes the means through which a nation claims territory, a metropolis attracts patients, a clinic moves beyond borders to enter new markets. The Spatialities and Networks of Cancer research cluster opens up a new research agenda that shows how cancer is spatialized and what it spatializes.

A key aim of the research cluster is to examine networks that enable medical mapping and that are enabled by it. As part of its own networking activities, the cluster launched the Political Stakes of Cancer Network to bring together early career researchers with an interest in the social study of cancer.

We gratefully acknowledge funding from the Wellcome Trust for individual projects assembled in this new cluster. Workshops and conferences organized by members of the cluster were supported by additional funding from King’s College London, the British Academy, the ESRC, and the Brocher Foundation.

Group leads