Therapeutic commodities: trade, transmission and the material culture of global medicine


  • Prof Anne Gerritsen

    University of Warwick

Project summary

Therapeutic commodities – goods considered valuable for health improvement – have local as well as global histories. This project aims to understand the history of therapeutic commodities by using a material culture approach. We will look at the qualities and meanings assigned to substances and the ways in which they came into being. We will view these two as mutually constitutive aspects of a material approach to medicine. 

Studies of trade and the transmission of medical knowledge tend to reduce therapeutic commodities to unchanging goods that move in line with supply and demand, or characteristic features. Instead, this project seeks to bring together scholars who work on therapeutic commodities in different academic environments, to challenge existing narratives about the circulation of therapeutic commodities. 

The aim is to write a new history of therapeutic commodities, mapping their global socio-political and cultural lives across time and space.