The Fight against Counterfeit Medication: An Anthropology of Transnational Crime Control in Africa


This study looks at the development of the global campaign against counterfeit medication, with a special focus on South Africa. The aim is to explore the technologies being brought to bear in combating the production, trade and consumption of fake and spurious medication, and to understand how these technologies - through processes of translation and adaptation - are shaping and being shaped by the interface between health, law and commerce. National and international policy advocates who advance an anti-counterfeit medication agenda and demand increasing crime control efforts assume compatibility and a congruence of interests across concerns about health, crime and commerce, under the banner of a looming public health crisis. This study shows, however, that these three issues are far from being congruent and that each of them (in interaction with the other two) produces its own ways of telling good medicine from bad medicine. This results in a range of competing and intersecting techniques for regulating the circulation of medication and the re-ordering of society in the name of drug security. The study is part of the larger comparative project which under the title of The Anthropology of Transnational Crime Control in Africa, looks at the translation of technologies across a range of different crime control regimes (Fight against Human Trafficking in South Africa (Anna Hüncke) and the War against Drugs in Sierra Leone (Michael Bürge)) which all have emerged as a response to the increased global mobility of ideas, goods and bodies.