Forman, L. (2016) The Ghost Is the Machine: How Can We Visibilize the Unseen Norms and Power of Global Health? Int J Health Policy Manag. 2016 Mar; 5(3): 197–199
In his recent commentary, Gorik Ooms argues that “denying that researchers, like all humans, have personal opinions … drives researchers’ personal opinion underground, turning global health science into unconscious dogmatism or stealth advocacy, avoiding the crucial debate about the politics and underlying normative premises of global health.” These ‘unconscious’ dimensions of global health are as Ooms and others suggest, rooted in its unacknowledged normative, political and power aspects. But why would these aspects be either unconscious or unacknowledged? In this commentary, I argue that the ‘unconscious’ and ‘unacknowledged’ nature of the norms, politics and power that drive global health is a direct byproduct of the processes through which power operates, and a primary mechanism by which power sustains and reinforces itself. To identify what is unconscious and unacknowledged requires more than broadening the disciplinary base of global health research to those social sciences with deep traditions of thought in the domains of power, politics and norms, albeit that doing so is a fundamental first step. I argue that it also requires individual and institutional commitments to adopt reflexive, humble and above all else, equitable practices within global health research.