Eric Otieno - Dissertationsprojekt, Publikationen und Lehre

Resisting Necropolitics: Protest, Patents and Power in the Global Political Economy

The World Health Organisation estimates that two billion people worldwide lack access to essential medicines, creating a global access gap over which life and death is brokered. #PatentsKill (2020), one recent call to remove patent protection on all essential medicines, asserts that high prices and structural obstacles pertaining to the global patent system have defined the global access gap since the late 1990s. This project proposes that a systematic content and context analysis of the patent provisions of the TRIPS Agreement reveals how the global access gap is mediated by coloniality, contested notions of sovereignty and the technologies of legality that underlie global economic governance in institutions such as the World Trade Organisation. Consequently, for many poor (and sick) people across the world, global economic governance signifies latent Necropolitics in the form of slow violence that is both structural and spectral.

In response, between the late 1990s and early 2000s, South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) innovatively combined mass protests, civil-disobedience, treatment literacy, and unexpected alliances to expose the roles played by national and international patent regimes in upholding the access gap. Widely acclaimed for their grassroots credibility, transnational mobilization and multifaceted strategy, their work has broader implications for understanding how global economic governance manifested or obscured (necro)power and coloniality in the post-colonial nation-state of the mid-1990s, and how emergent protest at the time informed and accelerated reforms in multilateral institutions such as the WTO.

Based on archival, primary qualitative and extended case-study methodology, this project revisits the TACs demands at the turn of this century, comparing them to the 2001 Doha Declaration and the 2005 TRIPS Amendment as reform outcomes. It conceptually expands Achille Mbembe’s Necropolitics as (international) political economy, arguing that the TAC were resisting Necropolitics by challenging the subversion of sovereignty, the artificial scarcity of medicines, and the expendability of life that the TRIPS made possible at the height of the South African HIV/AIDS pandemic.

The demand to ‘Fix the Patents’ — articulated in protest in South Africa and beyond—reconfigured the access to medicines problem, and calibrated the ‘Politics of the Governed’ (Partha Chatterjee) globally by challenging the legitimacy of global economic governance. This project argues that the TAC framed the transnational debate that induced the Doha Declaration, which eventually triggered the amendment of the WTO treaty. The TAC’s work is situated within (African) subjectivities and lineages of anti-colonial resistance as they relate to sovereignty, political agency and pandemic politics in contemporary capitalism.




a) Herausgeberschaft/Themenhefte

Globalisierungskritik Postkolonial – Sabrina Keller, Eric Otieno, Dustin Schäfer, Anne Reiff, Aram Ziai (Hrsg.)- Peripherie, 161 (erscheint Frühjahr 2021).

b) Aufsätze (Peer-Review)

2020: “Reclaiming Our Time” in African Studies - Conversations from the perspective of the Black Studies Movement in Germany. Critical African Studies, 12:3, 330-353,  (Mit Maisha Auma & Peggy Piesche).

c) Rezensionen

2020: Globale Ungleichheit-Über Zusammenhänge von Kolonialismus, Arbeitsverhältnisse und Naturverbrauch (Fischer K. et al. (Hrsg). Wien: Mandelbaum Verlag 2019, 400 Seiten, in Peripherie Nr. 157-158.

2020: ‘Everywheres a here, isn’t it?’ Necropolitical power and its circular tendencies. Postcolonial Studies

2019: Afrotopia (Felwine Sarr). Berlin: Matthes & Seitz 2019, 175 Seiten, in Peripherie Nr. 153 (1-2019), S. 120-122.  

d) Blog- & Zeitungsartikel

2020: Kein Patentrezept. In Analyse & Kritik, Nr. 660. Schwerpunkt Medikamente. Online:

2020: Access delayed is access denied. In Africa is a Country. Online:


Necropoltics at Large: Postcolonial Sovereignty and the Coloniality of Global Economic Governance im Rahmen der Webinar Serie Protest and Reform in the International Political Economy: Postcolonial Perspectives. Universität Kassel. September 2020.

Concerning Epistemic Violence: Epistemische Gewalt und Dekolonisierung der Universität im Rahmen des studentisch organisierten Seminars: „Dekolonisierung der Universität“ Institut für Philosophie, Universität Hannover. Juni 2020

Postkolonialismus und Globale Gesundheit im Rahmen derVorlesungsreihe: Einführung in die Globale Gesundheit. Universitätsklinik Frankfurt am Main. October 2019.

African Regional Organisations in the Global Political Economy. El Congreso Formativo en Desarrollo Sostenible. Universidad Valladolid (ES). October 2019

After Eurocentrism. Die Zukunft des Wissens.Studierendenkonferenz Wissen Herrschaft und Kritik. Universität Mainz Juli 2019.

Patienten vs. Patenten: Das Recht auf Profit und Globale Gesundheit. Auftakt der Vortragsreihe “Lessons in Health”. Universität Marburg. November 2018.


(DE>EN) Wolfgang Sachs (2017): The Sustainable Development Goals and Laudato si’: varieties of Post-Development?, Third World Quarterly, 38:12, 2573-2587, DOI: 10.1080/01436597.2017.1350822

(DE>EN) Gutiérrez-Rodríguez E., Ha K. N., Hutta J., Kessé E. N, Laufenberg M. & Schmitt L. (2020): Race, Class and Gender at German Universities: A Round-Table Discussion.  In Bendix, D., Müller F., Ziai, A. (Eds)(2020): Beyond the Masters Tools? Decolonizing Knowledge Orders, Research Methods and Teaching. Rowmann & Littlefield, London.



1) Seminar - Einführung in die Postkolonialen Studien SoSe 2020 (Lehrauftrag gemeinsam mit Anne Reiff).

2) Global Health Summer School
Jährliche Dozentur seit 2018 im Rahmen der Global Health Summer School der Charité Institute for Social Medicine, Epidemiology and Health Economics, the German Platform for Global Health und IPPNW Germany



2018-2020 Auswahlausschuss Promotion der Hans Böckler Stiftung