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The biopolitics of the African smoking epidemic

This research project examines recent international efforts to address the growing non-communicable disease (NCD) burden in sub-Saharan Africa. Specifically, it explores global health initiatives to control the smoking epidemic on the subcontinent funded by charities like the American Cancer Society, development agencies and philanthropies like the Gates and Bloomberg foundations over the last twenty years. Led by transnational networks of public health experts, doctors, economists, lawyers and health activists working for the World Health Organisation, the World Bank, the Centers for Disease Control, civil society groups like the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids and public health schools, these initiative have sought to build anti-smoking movements and pass tobacco control policies across Africa. 

Using an innovative, multi-sited qualitative research methodology and drawing on science and technology studies, the project examines the following four questions:

  1. How do these experts and activists imagine and construct Africa and the African smoking epidemic?
  2.  How do these experts and activists picture and make the African tobacco control advocate?
  3. What notions of population are articulated around the new practices of surveillance and quantification promoted by these initiatives?
  4.  How does a health policy like tobacco taxation, with its assumptions about society and smokers, travel from North America to Africa?
Project status: Ongoing

Principal Investigator


Funding Body: Wellcome Trust

Amount: £220,000

Period: January 2014 - May 2019