Ohio University Press · Swallow Press ·

The Experiment Must Continue
Medical Research and Ethics in East Africa, 1940–2014

By Melissa Graboyes

“Graboyes’ arguments are critical for contemporary researchers who must understand how the ‘residue’ of each experiment alters the course of the next. … [Her] book, which does not presume knowledge of the history and ethnography of medical research in Africa, is written in engaging and jargon-free prose. …[It] is certain to prompt lively classroom discussions about global health, African medical research in colonial and postcolonial times, and the history of medicine.”

Journal of Interdisciplinary History

“[The Experiment Must Continue] will be of great interest to medical historians and anthropologists, East African historians, and global health researchers and bioethicists engaged in research in the Global South today … [The book] is to be applauded as a pathbreaking, engaging historical analysis of the practices, ethics, and implications of experimental medical research in one African postcolony.”

African Studies Review

“This is a remarkable contribution—scrupulously researched, innovatively organized, engagingly written, and passionately argued. To my knowledge, there is nothing published that can match the scope, temporal depth, or ethnographic finesse of this work. The manuscript is a superb example of how rigorous historical research opens up reflections on the unresolved ethical problems of contemporary global health research.”

Tamara Giles-Vernick, Director of Research, Institut Pasteur

“Graboyes’s book reads like a mystery, elegantly weaving history, science, bioethics and public health into a compelling story. A profoundly important contribution to the challenges of conducting medical research in the developing world.”

Michael A. Grodin, M.D., professor of bioethics and human rights, Boston University School of Public Health

The Experiment Must Continue is a beautifully articulated ethnographic history of medical experimentation in East Africa from 1940 through 2014. In it, Melissa Graboyes combines her training in public health and in history to treat her subject with the dual sensitivities of a medical ethicist and a fine historian. She breathes life into the fascinating histories of research on human subjects, elucidating the hopes of the interventionists and the experiences of the putative beneficiaries.

Historical case studies highlight failed attempts to eliminate tropical diseases, while modern examples delve into ongoing malaria and HIV/AIDS research. Collectively, these show how East Africans have perceived research differently than researchers do and that the active participation of subjects led to the creation of a hybrid ethical form.

By writing an ethnography of the past and a history of the present, Graboyes casts medical experimentation in a new light, and makes the resounding case that we must readjust our dominant ideas of consent, participation, and exploitation. With global implications, this lively book is as relevant for scholars as it is for anyone invested in the place of medicine in society.

Melissa Graboyes, a historian, examines topics related to global health, ethics, and biomedicine in East Africa. She is the author of The Experiment Must Continue: Medical Research and Ethics in East Africa, 1940–2014. She teaches in the Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon.   More info →


Study Guide, by Melissa Graboyes


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Retail price: $35.95, S.
Release date: November 2015
14 illus. · 336 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Rights:  World

Retail price: $80.95, S.
Release date: November 2015
14 illus. · 336 pages · 6 × 9 in.
Rights:  World

Release date: November 2015
14 illus. · 336 pages
Rights:  World

Additional Praise for The Experiment Must Continue

“Graboyes’ innovative approach pushes boundaries of conventional medical history, adds badly needed historical depth to ethnographies of medical research, and revitalizes bioethics thinking in an entertaining and accessible way. Her investigation of the ways medical research lingers in East Africa will contribute to historical and anthropological scholarship for years to come, and one hopes it will be read by ethicists and scientists as well.”

Paul Wenzel Geissler, professor of social anthropology at the University of Oslo

“Graboyes has the gift of drawing the reader into small stories and then showing how these relate to wider practical and ethical dilemmas… [The Experiment Must Continue] has a strong central message and is beautifully crafted: a model of how to make the local stories come alive in a way that contributes to the painting of a much broader picture.”


“A beautiful ethnographic history of medical experiments in East Africa from the colonial period to the present. …Graboyes doesn’t just caution us to look to the past; she also persuades us to think about the future.”

Washington Post online

“With its grounded and spirited engagement with the practical ethics of research science, this book is a welcome contribution to the literature on the history and ethics of medical research.… [Graboyes] never allows the analysis to rest in the easy moral high ground of damning critique.…This is responsible and meaningful scholarship.”

Medical Anthropology Quarterly

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