Our interest in the ethos, practice, and traces of science as a longstanding mode of engagement with African development and ideas of potential and failure, draws upon a decade of interdisciplinary work, through which we have developed a unique historical-anthropological approach to medicine in Africa, creatively stretching our disciplinary limitations. By treating remains, traces and sites of past bioscience as alternative forms of archive, and by conducting “ethnographies” of conventional archival repositories we have expanded the sources and traction of historical analysis. By querying the omnipresence of rumours about unequal exchange, we figure an ethical debate about the wider frames in which medical research is conducted.

This work has given rise to a unique archive of visual, aural and written documentation, and artefacts, and a rich trove of ‘leads’: sites to locate and compare, landscapes to chart, people to find or revisit, objects to search or curate, materials to catalogue and images to interpret and contextualise. Our future collaboration will open these sites to collective scrutiny, develop our insights in community with scholars, artists, and activists concerned with the public and privates lives of science.