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Vol. 7 No. 1: April issue

Sticky models: History as friction in obstetric education

  • John Nott
  • Anna Harris
July 30, 2019


This paper explores the material histories which influence contemporary medical education. Using two obstetric simulators found in the distinct teaching environments of the University of Development Studies in the north of Ghana and Maastricht University in the south of the Netherlands, this paper deconstructs the material conditions which shape current practice in order to emphasise the past practices that remain relevant, yet often invisible, in modern medicine. Building on conceptual ideas drawn from STS and the productive tensions which emerge from close collaboration between historians and anthropologists, we argue that the pull of past practice can be understood as a form of friction, where historical practices ‘stick’ to modern materialities. We argue that the labour required for the translation of material conditions across both time and space is expressly relevant for the ongoing use and future development of medical technologies.