Médecins Sans Frontières / Doctors Without Borders (MSF) is a private international medical humanitarian organization that was created by a small group of French doctors and journalists in 1971. In 1988, MSF was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace in recognition of the worldwide assistance it provides for people in distress who are victims of manmade and natural disasters and armed conflict. Committed to the principles of neutrality, impartiality, and independence, the men and women of MSF bear witness by speaking out about conditions of extreme need and suffering, acts of violence against individuals or groups, and threats or hindrances to medical care that they observe in the course of carrying out their work.
Renée C. Fox is a sociologist known particularly for her pioneering work in medical sociology and for her ethnographic research and writing. Doctors Without Borders is based on the first-hand research she conducted about and within MSF since 1993. Its vivid, "thickly descriptive" data are derived from her participant observation, in-depth interviewing, and collection of primary and secondary documents in numerous MSF contexts.
The book begins on the ground with the blogs of women and men of MSF in the field, recounting their experiences in moving detail. From there it chronicles MSF's early history and development, paying special attention to its inner struggles, during the first decades of its existence, to clarify and implement its principles and to more fully realize its "without borders" transnational vision. Detailed case studies form the core of the book, describing MSF in postapartheid South Africa, dealing with that nation's rampant epidemic of HIV/AIDS, and MSF in postsocialist Russia, responding to the thousands of homeless persons on the streets of Moscow and to the massive epidemic of tuberculosis in the penal colonies of Siberia. The book ends with an account of the fortieth anniversary meeting of MSF in Paris and with the author's exit from the field.
Doctor Without Borders tells a narrative enriched by photographs of MSF missions and by ironic, self-critical cartoons drawn by a member of the Communications Department of MSF France.