Public Anthropologies
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This week, we launch our new series, “De-Provincializing Development,” in which we examine the United Nations’ newly established Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). As Henrietta Moore noted after the adoption of the goals at the UN summit in New York in 2015, the SDGs differ from their predecessor, the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which only applied to so-called developing countries. The SDGs, in contrast, require all nations to work towards them. By underscoring the need to rethink our models of economic growth in an increasingly interconnected world, the SDGs appear to eschew the patronizing relationship between North and South implied by more traditional development frameworks. But will this rhetoric have any consequences?

Our intention in this series is to take seriously the concerns of Moore—and the architects of the SDGs—about the North-South focus on development. Over the course of the next several months, we will be featuring essays from anthropologists and other scholars who rate how the United States fares in relation to the seventeen SDGs. We seek to cast a critical eye on US progress toward these goals, keeping in mind that “development” has largely focused on the failures and insufficiencies of the countries located in the Global South. Further, it is our sense that critically assessing US progress toward these goals is particularly urgent in the current political climate where policies concerning sustainable energy, climate change, health care, public education, reproductive rights, and social inequality are being increasingly marginalized—if not openly targeted and abandoned.

In the first post in the series, Emily K. Brunson and Jessica Mulligan weigh in on the current debates over health care in the United States, highlighting the failures of the US health system to provide equitable access to health care. For more information on how you can make your voice heard in the health care debate visit

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