Marissa Mika, “Africanizing Oncology: Creativity, Crisis, and Cancer in Uganda” (Ohio UP, 2021)

Thousands of stories are given voice by Marissa Mika in Africanizing Oncology: Creativity, Crisis, and Cancer in Uganda (Ohio UP, 2021), a fearless, warm, and humane history of the Uganda Cancer Institute’s first half century. Mika treads carefully but surely through the fields of colonial and post-colonial medical research and politics while never losing sight of the individuals who worked, planned, improvised, suffered, survived and died at the UCI. The book is a fascinating contrast to the global north history of pediatric oncology as told, for example, by former National Cancer Institute director Vincent DeVita Jr. in The Death of Cancer. As Mika makes abundantly clear, there is no such wild optimism surrounding cancer in Uganda. There is, though, resourcefulness, commitment, and an ability to adapt to extraordinary circumstances on a daily basis. This richly researched book undoubtedly has significant academic merit in fields including, but not limited to, the history of medicine. It should appeal equally to global health activists who want to understand better the challenges and incremental accomplishments of work on the ground.

Rachel Pagones is an acupuncturist, educator, and author based in Cambridge, England. Her book, Acupuncture as Revolution: Suffering, Liberation, and Love (Brevis Press) was published in 2021.

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