Global Assemblages of Virtue and Vitality: Genealogies and Anthropologies of Rights and Health

David Reubi and Alex Mold, 2013, In: A. Mold and and D. Reubi, Assembling Health Rights in Global Perspective: Genealogies and Anthropologies. London: Routledge, 1-20.

In this three-part introduction to Assembling Health Rights in Global Perspectives, we set the scene for the studies of health rights assemblages carried out in the essays published in this edited collection. In the first part, we sketch a possible genealogy of health rights over the last two centuries. Arguing against a celebratory history, we suggest that one of the first combinations of health and rights was the social liberal assemblage articulated around social rights, solidarity and the welfare state. Thereafter, the language of human rights and bioethics, both developed after and to some extent in reaction to World War Two, progressively replaced the language of social rights. This was especially the case after the 1970s, with the rise of bioethical notions of individual autonomy, and after the 1980s, with the rise of human rights talk of non-discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients. In the second part, we explore some of the questions, approaches and concepts articulated in the growing anthropological, sociological and political science literature on health rights assemblages. We start by introducing the concept of ‘assemblage’ or apparatus of virtue and vitality. We then outline the importance of transnational expert and advocacy networks in the making of health rights apparatuses, survey some of the problems and difficulties inherent to health rights and discuss the notion of subjectivity in relation to health rights. In the third and last part, we summarise the different essays that make up this collection.