What's at stake in the fake?

Indian pharmaceuticals, African markets and global health

Julia Hornberger | People at Fake Drugs Project

Julia Hornberger

Principal Investigator
University of the Witwatersrand

I am an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa. I work on questions of policing and health.

I started out with a focus on policing and human rights in Johannesburg. In this work I have been tracing how South Africa’s burgeoning human rights regime on the one hand, and the various interactions with people living under circumstances of great uncertainty and insecurity on the other hand, have transformed policing in post-apartheid years. In 2011 I published a book “Human Rights and Policing. The Meaning of Violence and Justice in the everyday Practice of Policing in Johannesburg” with Routledge. This research interest continues to occupy me; especially as South Africa has entered into a new area of conflict and confrontations between people and the police.

In addition I have also shifted my focus towards the policing of health and intellectual property rights. In a project (funded by the German research Foundation (DFG)) on international crime control and the circulation of fake and substandard medication I explored the ways in which questions of health, security and the market intersect around the figure of the pharmaceutical copy, globally and in South Africa in particular.

Through our project ‘What’s at Stake in the Fake’ I further develop this research focus conceptualising the regulation of fake pharmaceuticals as ‘Fake-Talk’, and by putting it in relation to the various other instances and sites of Fake Talk around questions of production (in India) and distribution and consumption (in Tanzania) of pharmaceuticals.

I carry out interviews and participant observation with a wide range of regulators, be it the Commercial Crime Unit of the South African Police Service, Interpol, developers of minilabs and holograms, boarder and customs officials, medicine regulators or intellectual property lawyers etc. I do this with a passion for capturing their subject position in the complex field of security and health, the categories they produce and are part of, and the narratives of good and bad they project and tell us.

I received my PhD from the Faculty of Law at the University of Utrecht, the Netherlands. Before I joined the Department of Anthropology at Wits, I was a Senior Lecturer at the University of Zurich, and the University of Konstanz. I was previously a researcher at the Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research (WISER), and the African Centre for Migration (ACMS) at Wits. For many years, I have been co-convenor of the Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism (JWTC). I am currently also the Head of Department of Anthropology at Wits.

Email: julia.hornberger@wits.ac.za

For publications please see: