I am a historian of modern Africa, and currently an Assistant Professor in the Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon. I received my Ph.D. in History and my Masters in Public Health from Boston University. I have worked domestically as a health educator with Planned Parenthood, and have led health outreach and advocacy programs in Botswana and Tanzania.
My research has an East Africa regional emphasis (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda) and I employ a variety of historical and anthropological methods in investigating topics of interest. I am particularly committed to making research findings accessible to the larger public, and serving as a bridge to translate academic findings to practitioners working in the field. My hope is that careful histories of global health, biomedicine, and science in East Africa will provide useful information to help create more sensitive policy and research programs in these areas in the future.
You can hear more about my research here in an interview with Paul Peppis of the Oregon Humanities Center. I also spoke with Jo Weaver and Erik Peterson from the Speaking of Race podcast and you can listen to that interview here.
Malaria Elimination in Africa: History, Ethics, Failures, and the Way Forward
This is my current research project, funded with a 5-year NSF CAREER award that will result in a single-authored monograph and series of articles co-written with Clark Honors College students. During 2019-2020 I’ll be conducting archival and ethnographic research in Zanzibar, Europe and the United States and begin with initial analysis and writing.
A particular focus is on the ethical questions emerging around rebound malaria, the loss of acquired immunity, and how local communities are informed of the potential risks, and how international global health groups plan exit strategies for when their elimination/control activities end. My analysis continues into the present to do some comparisons with the current malaria elimination activities going on in Zanzibar. The sources and methods are a blend of historical and anthropological, drawing on work in the Zanzibar National Archives and the WHO archives, and interviews and observations in Zanzibar. The full book will focus on Zanzibar in depth, but will compare it to what we’ve learned and documented from other cases of rebound malaria epidemics globally. There are four main project themes: African Vernacular Knowledge, Governmentality and Expertise, Postcolonial Global Health Ethics, and Africa in Global Perspective.
An important contribution of this project will be to integrate African vernacular knowledge about malaria more fully into the history of science, the history of malaria elimination attempts, the history of global health interventions and current elimination activities. My preliminary data indicates that Zanzibari vernacular knowledge challenges many biomedical epistemic frameworks. This is clear in areas such as what makes malaria an “environmental” disease; what it means to eliminate a disease; whether acquired immunity exists; the risks and realities of rebound malaria; and how local communities make sense of current activities after a century of international malaria control and elimination activities.
The second theme of Governmentality and Expertise theme more fully considers the role of the state, and citizens’ relationship with the government in shaping their engagement with global health interventions. It is grounded in locally specific information, acknowledging social and political relationships and realities. Preliminary research in Zanzibar indicates that how citizens assess and engage with global health campaigns are modulated by larger citizen-state relationships and the mis/trust citizens have in government. Residents’ impressions of government and its role in their lives also colors how people think about the role of “experts” and “expertise.”
The third focus area, Postcolonial Global Health Ethics highlights the ethical questions related to community involvement, risks, and acknowledging the true lifecycle of an intervention. The postcolonial realities of flows of money and expertise from the global north to the global south, the artificiality of funding cycles, the precarity of successes, and a refusal to acknowledge the afterlives of a project—these may appear as defining features of our contemporary, neo-liberal, landscape. But these questions and patterns deserve to be historicized, and in fact have many historical precedents. These large concerns can also be condensed to a set of fairly simple questions: What happens in a place when an intervention ends? What kinds of risks might be acknowledged by scientists but not be well understood by community members? What does responsible planning for the end (or even failure) of a project, look like? These questions resonate across all areas global health where sustained funding is challenging and where changed disease ecosystems can increase local risk.
The fourth theme, Africa in Global Perspective, critically reads the WHO’s archival record to explore the possibility that the original use of “pilot” was a strategic misnomer and historians’ use since then has been a mistake. This section fully examines the 20+ campaigns in Africa and whether they constitute a real and sustained effort to eliminate malaria on the continent. Research completed to date indicates that while the WHO’s public statements named these as “pilots,” private memos showed that the WHO ran these programs just as they ran other “real” elimination attempts; Africa was not “forgotten” or “left out.” They funded them well over a period of years, sent their best experts, filled out the same reports, and engaged with the epidemiological data in the same ways. Although the project’s primary focus will remain on Zanzibar, my analysis will broaden to consider the other malaria elimination attempts made across sub-Saharan Africa through archival materials.
The Experiment Must Continue
My first book, The Experiment Must Continue: Medical Research and Ethics in East Africa, 1940-2014 (Ohio University Press, 2015) tells the story of human experimentation and medical ethics in East Africa from 1940 to the present. It is a history of the very real encounters that made up medical research in the region: of European doctors taking blood samples under cover of darkness; African assistants going door to door collecting stool samples in tarred jars; and of school children lined up to receive injections. It is also a recounting of peoples' responses to and understanding of these encounters. I spent time in more than 15 different places searching for documents or people who helped me reconstruct the history of medical research in the region: I discovered new archival materials Mwanza and Amani (Tanzania); interviewed residents of Ukara and Ukerewe Islands in Lake Victoria; and worked in archives in Nairobi and Kisumu.
The book has been reviewed in: Medical History, Medical Anthropology Quarterly the International Journal of African Historical Studies , the Journal of Modern African Studies, the Revue Politique Africaine, the Social History of Medicine, Isis, the African Studies Review and the Journal of Interdisciplinary History . It has also been written about in the Washington Post's blog, The Monkey Cage and here, discussed on the World Bank blog, Development Impact, by the CIHA blog and by the World Bank economist, David Evans. The University of Oregon's "Around the O" covered it here and it was the subject of a podcast episode on Ufahamu Africa. It is also being taught in history and African Studies courses at both the undergraduate and graduate level at places including Reed College, Columbia University, the University of Wisconsin Madison, the University of Birmingham, Amherst College, Ohio State University, University of Maryland, and the University of South Carolina.
Africa Every Day: Fun, Leisure, and Expressive Culture on the Continent
This volume is co-edited with Kemi Balogun, Habib Iddrisu, and Lisa Gilman and will be published by Ohio University Press, November 2019. This volume focuses on the creative and dynamic ways that people in African contexts are using their leisure time, having fun, being creative, and engaging in forms of expressive culture. It is meant as a counterpoint to the bulk of materials available for undergraduate African Studies courses that emphasize war, poverty, corruption, disease, and human rights violations. The intended audience is lower-division undergraduate classes in African Studies, Folklore, Anthropology, History, and Sociology.
I am engaged in a number of other research projects in East Africa and across the continent. These include:
1) "Health, Disease and Environment in Africa," co-edited with Daphne Gallagher. This collection of articles focuses on anthropological and historical approaches to the relationships between health, disease and environment. The book draws upon the broad and deep expertise of Oregon-based Africanists who work on related topics. A year-long set of activities will involve multiple writing workshops as a way to build intellectual community within the state and coherency and connections among the contributions. Scholars from UO, Oregon State University, Portland State University, Western Oregon University, Reed College, and Willamette College are all involved.
2) "The DHS: The Creation of a Global Tool." This is a single-authored monograph project, in the early stages of research, tracing the creation and growth of the ubiquitous “DHS” (Demographic and Health Survey), its widespread use in economic development and public health work, and the ethical questions surrounding the use of this tool.
The Experiment Must Continue: Medical Research and Ethics in East Africa, 1940-2014. Ohio University Press, 2015. Sample Chapter.
“Forgetting Scientific Failures: The Kenya DIBD and Lymphatic Filariasis Elimination Attempts, 1946-1956,” (co-authored with Hannah Carr). Canadian Journal of African Studies. Special Issue on Health Capacity, Guest editor, Wenzel Geissler. 51, 1 (2017): 1-17. Article.
“Incorporating Medical Research Into the History of Medicine in East Africa.” Special Issue on the History of Medicine in East Africa. International Journal of African Historical Studies, 47, 3 (2014): 379-398. Article.
“‘The Malaria Imbroglio:’ Ethics, Eradication, and Endings in Pare Taveta, East Africa, 1959-1960.” Special Issue on the History of Medicine in East Africa. International Journal of African Historical Studies. 47, 3 (2014): 445-472. Article.
“Chappati Complaints and Biriani Cravings: The Aesthetics of Food in Colonial Zanzibari Institutions,” Journal of Eastern African Studies, May 2011: 313-328. Article.
“Fines, Orders, Fear... and Consent? Medical Research in East Africa, c. 1950s.” Journal of Developing World Bioethics, April 2010: 34-41. Article.
"Africa Every Day: Fun, Leisure, and Expressive Culture on the Continent." Co-edited with Kemi Balogun, Habib Iddrisu, Lisa Gilman. Ohio University Press. Forthcoming November 2019
“Economies of Blood in East Africa: from Mumiani to Transfusions, 1880s-Present,” In preparation.
Christopher J. Lee. Unreasonable Histories: Nativism, Multiracial Lives, and the Genealogical Imagination in British Africa. Durham: Duke University Press, 2014; in Canadian Journal of History, 2016. Review
Maria Grosz-Ngate, John H. Hanson, Patrick O’Meara. Africa: Fourth Edition. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2014; in Journal of African History, 2016. Review
Johanna Tayloe Crane. Scrambling for Africa: AIDS, Expertise, and the Rise of American Global Health Science. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2013; in African Affairs, 2014. Review
Hansjorg Dilger, Aboulaye Kane and Stacey Langwick, eds., Medicine, Mobility and Power in Global Africa: Transnational Health and Healing; Tamara Giles-Vernick and James Webb, eds.,Global Health in Africa: Historical Perspectives on Disease Control; Paul Wenzel Geissler and Catherine Molyneux, eds., Evidence, Ethos and Experiment: the Anthropology and History of Medical Research in Africa; in African Studies Review, 57, 2014. Review
Helen Tilley. Africa as a Living Laboratory: Empire, Development, and the Problem of Scientific Knowledge, 1870-1950. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011; in International Journal of African Historical Studies, 2010. Review
Hansjorg Dilger and Ute Luig, eds. Morality, Hope and Grief: Anthropologies of AIDS in Africa. New York: Berghahn Books, 2010; in H-Net Reviews, September 2011. Review
Paul Wenzel Geissler and Ruth Jane Prince. The Land is Dying: Contingency, Creativity and Conflict in Western Kenya. New York: Berghahn Books, 2010; in African Studies Quarterly,Winter 2011. Review
Andrew Rodlach. Witches, Westerners, and HIV: AIDS & Cultures of Blame in Africa. Walnut Creek: Left Coast Press, 2006; in H-Net Reviews, April 2008. Review
John Iliffe. The African Aids Epidemic: A History. Athens: Ohio University Press, 2006; inInternational Journal of African Historical Studies, September 2007. Review
Tracy J. Luedke and Harry G. West, eds. Borders and Healers: Brokering Therapeutic Resources in Southeast Africa. Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2006; in International Journal of African Historical Studies, January 2007. Review
High School/Undergraduate Curricula
“Exploring Disease in Africa: A Curriculum for Advanced High School Students.” Curriculum
"Teaching Ebola: Responses, Ethics, and the Future." Curriculum forthcoming.
Catalog to historical materials housed at Amani Station, Tanzania. National Institute of Medical Research. October 2008. Catalog
“Learning From the Past: The Future of Malaria in Africa.” Issues in Brief, (Boston: Boston University Pardee Center), 2008. Article