Kristin PetersonSep 10, 2015
Drug Circuits and Derivative Life in Nigeria
Duke University Press 2014
Kristin Peterson's new ethnography looks carefully at the Nigerian pharmaceutical market, paying special attention to the ways that the drug trade links West Africa within a larger global economy. Speculative Markets: Drug Circuits and Derivative Life in Nigeria (Duke University Press, 2015) takes reads into a story that is part medical anthropology, part careful analysis of global economy, and shows that understanding one is vital to understanding the other in the modern West African pharmaceutical landscape. Peterson pays special attention to the Idumota market, an area that was strictly residential in the 1970s and has since become one of the largest West African points of drug distribution for pharmaceuticals and other materials from all over the world. Peterson looks at the consequences of major local and global historical factors in that transformation, including civil war in the late 1960s and migration that followed, a 1970s oil boom and bust, and changes in the global pharmaceutical market in the 1980s. By the early 1980s, Nigeria was deep into an economic crisis that had profound implications for the production, circulation, and marketing of pharmaceuticals. The pharmaceutical industry remade itself by becoming tied to the speculative marketplace, with wide-ranging implications that included the rise of new professional relationships & market formations in Nigeria, new relationships with firms in China and India, new forms of speculation, and new questions about the ontology of markets. Peterson demonstrates that these transformations continue to have important consequences for the bodies of individual Nigerians, including major problems with drug resistance and a mismatch between existing drug therapies and existing diseases. The book avoids the usual discourse of corporate greed, instead focusing on the "structural logics of pharmaceutical capital through which corporate practices can be understood." It is a timely and fascinating study.