Mark Lamont tinkers with social anthropology, history, and medical humanities.
After completing his PhD at Edinburgh (2005), he worked at the University of Victoria (2005-2007) before taking up a position at Goldsmiths, the University of London for a stretch (2007-2014). Mark's first appearance at the OU was as a Research Associate (2016) before moving over to the British Institute in Eastern Africa (2017) and then back again to the OU (2018-2019).
Mark has been involved in two publicly-funded research projects at the OU (FASS-History)
Mark's current project is 'Male Circumcision in Kenya: biomedicalisation and masculinity in contemporary culture.'
This Wellcome Trust funded project aims to tell the story of Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) for HIV prevention in Kenya. Kenya is only one of 14 other African countries in which this mass surgical campaign was rolled-out since 2007 with the goal of circumcising 20.9 million men by 2016. The specific historical and cultural contexts of male circumcision in this eastern African country demand our attention if we wish to understand the longer-term implications of this medical intervention upon target communities.
The project grasps VMMC as an artefact of a particular epistemic and organisational turn in the history of AIDS. Looking at the historical development of medicalised male circumcision for HIV prevention from approximately 1986 to the present is important in several, overlapped ways. Firstly, VMMC is unprecedented as the historically largest public health campaign involving preventative surgery. Secondly, the VMMC approach is consonant with other biomedical HIV prevention measures such as ARVs and PrEP in that biology takes priority over behaviour. Thirdly, the very idea of an approach to containing HIV infections through circumcising millions of African men generated a great deal of controversy and resistance when it was initially proposed. After a period of significant scientific and bioethical polarisation, global health governance institutions like WHO or UNAIDS finally established a working consensus that VMMC would save many lives.
At a time when HIV remission is a now looking to be a (remote) medical possibility and bioethics jarred by experimenting with the genomics of unborn babies to prevent AIDS, it might make a good deal of sense to look historically at HIV prevention science to examine past ethical debates. This project does that. It seeks to tell the story of how scientists came to the conclusions that men's foreskins and, later, their penile microbiomes posed a risk and threat to public health (see Norton 2015). This history is doubly valuable because it demonstrates the interdependency of scientific consensus-making with consent-seeking among voluntary, informed research subjects. It traces out the moment when the AIDS treatment era framed biology and evidence as the key drivers of global health intervention. Earlier focus on human behaviour, social relations and subjectivity were eclipsed by these newer physiological and histo-immunological topographies of disease and cure. This project looks back at this history through the lens of masculinity, aiming to map out this moment when biology recontextualised masculinity in the fight against AIDS.
See Mark's blog here: https://malecircumcisioninkenya.wordpress.com
British Institute in Eastern Africa (Honorary Research Fellow)
National Museums of Kenya (MUCH to Discover at Mida Creek) https://risingfromthedepths.com/much/