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Humanity/Plan; or, On the "Stateless" Today (Also Being an Anthropology of Global Health)

By Tobias Rees

Cite As:
Rees, Tobias. 2014. “Humanity/Plan; Or, On the "Stateless" Today (Also Being an Anthropology of Global Health)”. Cultural Anthropology 29 (3), 457-78.


My fieldwork among HIV vaccine researchers, activists, and funders has led me to suggest that humanity—when it was first conceived of in the late eighteenth century—emerged as a plan, a plan for how to establish a future anticipated in the present. The powerful implication of this fieldwork-based suggestion is that what humanity is—or if it is at all—depends on the available humanity plans. I argue in this essay that we are currently seeing the emergence of a new—a biological—humanity plan, and I wish to make visible that—and how—this biological humanity plan has outgrown, conceptually as well as institutionally, older humanity plans. I also hope to make comprehensible the massive—intellectual as well as political—challenge this emergence poses.


global health; Gates Foundation; humanity; humanitarianism