The Cyberflâneur #24: Ingrid Kvangraven

With debate raging around the implications of COVID-19 for the “developing world”, Ingrid Kvangraven’s turn to guest curate the Cyberflâneur has come at the right time. Ingrid is a professor at the University of York as well as the founder of Developing Economics, an excellent source of fresh and critical thinking in the field of economic development. She is – among other things – founder of Diversifying and Decolonising Economics (D-Econ) and an Associate Editor of The New Palgrave Dictionary of Economics.

Ingrid has “chosen a selection of articles that can help us better understand how COVID-19 will impact developing countries and the underlying structures that lead to inequitable and underfunded health systems, with a focus on financialization and imperialism.” You’ll find some real gems, including on the “coloniality in knowledge production about public health”, why blended finance might not be as good as it sounds or how the IMF and World Bank have fed an audit culture “serving to obscure the destructive effects of NGO proliferation on public health systems”.

For Ingrid’s Twitter and bio. A recent talk by Ingrid below and more of her work – including on heterodox economics – towards the end.

~ Evgeny Morozov

The Syllabus is a great way to stay updated on what’s coming out in terms of research, blogs and podcasts.

Ingrid Kvangraven
A lecture on the relevance of SDGs for Inequality, Poverty and Technology.

Ingrid’s Selections

I.

On the Coloniality of Global Public Heath

This specific article looks at coloniality in knowledge production about public health. It argues that the public health profession is an accomplice to contemporary imperialism by unpacking how the ‘bourgeois empiricist’ models of disease causation serve protected affluence by uncritically reifying inequitable social relations in the modern/colonial matrix of power, making them appear commonsensical.


II.

Blended Financing, Canadian Foreign Aid Policy, and Alternatives

Blended finance is such a genius new idea, right? Who can be against leveraging private sector funds for additional development finance for development? This paper frames the blended finance agenda in a broader history of development finance and argues that “blended finance” is actually a fairly old strategy that “attempts to resolve the contradictions of neoliberal development by introducing more neoliberal policies.” They demonstrate that such development strategies are likely to actually shift investment away from the poorest countries and the services that people living in poverty need the most (e.g. health, education, water, and sanitation) and towards more profitable investment in finance, energy, and industry in middle-income countries. It’s about Canadian aid, but it there are certainly broader lessons to draw from this.


III.

Austerity in Africa: Audit Cultures and the Weakening of Public Sector Health Systems

This is a really interesting anthropological study of how austerity across Africa has been operationalized through World Bank and IMF structural adjustment programs since the 1980s. It goes beyond just documenting how austerity policies have led to underfunded public health systems to demonstrate how extraordinary data collection infrastructures are demanded from recipient organizations in the name of transparency, and how in the case of Mozambique these intensive audit cultures serve to obscure the destructive effects of NGO proliferation on public health systems.


IV.

Banking on Health: the World Bank and Health Sector Reform in Latin America

For a thorough case study approach to answer the question of why the World Bank was unable to effect sweeping neoliberal health reforms in Latin America, check out this book. This book argues that the reasons lie in World Bank not having promoted a uniformly neoliberal, monolithic agenda in health and that countries’ autonomy and capacity in this sector shape how the World Bank is involved in reforms. The book also distinguishes neoliberal ends from means in health sector reform and traces changes in “banking on health” over time.


V.

Trade and Health: From Ancient Pandemics to the World Trade Organization and Beyond

Very important chapter that demonstrates how agreements in the World Trade Organization shape governments’ ability to regulate for health, environmental and social protection purposes.


VI.

Fake Drugs: Health, Wealth and Regulation in Nigeria

Really interesting article on the fake drugs industry in Nigeria. In contrast to dominant explanations, the authors argue that the rise of fake drugs was closely linked to these national crises and related global trends towards market liberalisation and the commodification of health. They find that in this context, policies to regulate fake drugs remained limited as they only addressed the symptoms of a more fundamental political and economic problem: the shift from public health towards private wealth and profit-making.


VII.

Revisiting the Social Determinants of Health Agenda from the Global South

This is an important article that challenges the idea that there is consensus regarding equity in health. To this end, the article compares two approaches in the field: the WHO Commission on Social Determinants of Health approach (strongly influenced by European Social Medicine) and the Latin American Social Medicine and Collective Health (largely invisibilized). The article argues that the debates shaping the equity in health agenda do not merely reflect conceptual differences, but essentially different ethical-political proposals that define the way health inequities are understood and proposed to be transformed.


VIII.

Deconstructing the Financialization of Healthcare

This is an excellent overview article of how financialization has impacted health care provision and organization. The authors argue that this deepening of financialization represents a fundamental shift in the organizing principles for healthcare systems, with negative implications for health and equality.


IX.

Cuba’s Contribution to Combating COVID-19

Helen Yaffe lays out the history of Cuba’s impressive biotechnology industry and how they’ve already contributed in important ways to corona medical research and treatment.


X.

Housing Microfinance and the Financialisation of Housing in Latin America and beyond: an Agenda for Future Research

Not directly related to public health, but this article tackles an important aspect of the overlap between the financialization and microfinance agenda that deserves more scrutiny – microfinance’s role in housing financialization. It’s also a part of the blended finance and financial inclusion agenda that has been pushed by international actors. This article looks specifically at housing microfinance in Latin America, the de- and re-regulation of mortgage markets, increases in mortgage securitisation and shifts in ownership structures – and their effects.


More by Ingrid Kvangraven – from our Stacks

Our archive of high-quality content across text, video and audio – our “Living Syllabus” as we call it – has already reached over 20,000 items and grows larger every week.

Here are some recent pieces by or featuring Ingrid from those archives:


Previous Editions

  • #15 Kaiser Kuo – Writer, Musician, Podcaster
  • #16 Atossa Araxia Abrahamian – Senior Editor at the Nation, Author of The Cosmopolites: The Coming of the Global Citizen
  • #17 Li Andersson – Finland’s Minister of Education and the Chairperson of the Left Alliance party
  • #18 István Rév – Professor of History and Political Science at CEU, Director of the Open Society Archives
  • #19 Benjamin Bratton – Professor of Visual Arts and Director of the Center for Design and Geopolitics at the University of California
  • #20 Ivan Krastev – Chairman of the Centre for Liberal Strategies in Sofia, Fellow at the Institute of Human Sciences in Vienna
  • #21 Daniela Gabor – Professor of Economics and Macro-Finance at UWE Bristol, Founder of Critical Macro Finance
  • #22 Fabrizio Barca – Italian Politician, founder of Forum on Inequality and Diversity
  • #23 Daniel Drezner – Professor of International Politics at Tufts University

More About our Cyberflâneur Series

To learn more about how this particularly eclectic edition of our syllabi works, head over here. Note that if you subscribe to any of our weekly syllabi, we’ll keep you posted on our latest cyberflâneurs too. Our subscribers also get a monthly Highlights From the Cyberflâneur edition.

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