Professor Cori Hayden of UC Berkeley’s Department of Anthropology will speak on her new book “The Spectacular Generic: Pharmaceuticals and the Simipolitical in Mexico” as part of our series Novedades/Lançamentos: New Scholarship @ Berkeley. In this space, we highlight new work from Berkeley scholars about Latin America and the Caribbean.
In The Spectacular Generic, Cori Hayden examines how generic drugs have transformed public health politics and everyday experiences of pharmaceutical consumption in Latin America. Focusing on the Mexican pharmacy chain Farmacias Similares, Hayden shows how generics have become potent commodities in a postpatent world. In the early 2000s, González Torres, a.k.a. “Dr. Simi,” capitalized on the creation of new markets for generic medicines, selling cheaper copies of leading-brand drugs across Latin America. But Dr. Simi has not simply competed with the transnationals; his enterprise has also come to compete with the Mexican state, reorganizing the provision of medicine and basic health care for millions of people. Hayden juxtaposes this story with Dr. Simi’s less successful efforts in Argentina, where he confronted a radically different configuration of pharmaceutical politics. Building from these diverging trajectories, Hayden illuminates the politics of generic substitution as a question that goes beyond substituting one drug for another. Generic politics can radically reshape the relations among consumers, states, and pharmaceutical markets, even as they have yet to resolve the problems of cost and access.
Cori Hayden is Professor in the Anthropology Department at UC Berkeley. Her research focuses on the anthropology of the biochemical sciences, global pharmaceutical politics, and postcolonial engagements with intellectual property, copying, and the politics of innovation and appropriation.
Mara Loveman is Professor and Director of Graduate Studies in the Sociology Department at UC Berkeley. Her research interests also include the sociology of development, biopolitics/necropolitics and the demography of ethnoracial difference and inequality, and social theory, with a regional focus on Latin America. Zoom