Research Projects

2021-2027 Trajectories: The social science of developmental pathways to health from preconception to childhood in South Africa

Funded by a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship, this project is a collaboration between King’s College London, the Graduate Institute Geneva, and the SAMRC-Wits Developmental Pathways for Health Research Unit at the University of the Witwatersrand. Working with the Healthy Early Life Trajectories Initiative, the project will investigate the social and ethical implications of research and intervention in the preconception period and develop innovative qualitative methodologies to study the social factors that shape life trajectories. 

2013-2020 The First Thousand Days of Life: Global Health and the Politics of Potential in Khayelitsha, South Africa

This project is concerned with the new global health policy focus on the ‘first thousand days of life’. The thousand days between conception and a child’s second birthday is presented in contemporary epidemiology, shaped by new knowledge in epigenetics and Development Origins of Health and Disease research, as a critical period that will determine future health and potential. This identifies ‘the priority window for impact’ for nutrition interventions to target undernutrition and stunting, promote future human capital, and to prevent a potential future burden of adult non-communicable disease. A preoccupation with the future is a central tenet of development ideologies, but this is newly formalised by projects, like the ‘first thousand days’ campaign, that have an explicit lifecycle focus and target measurable outcomes.

This work interrogates the logics and implications of the global health focus on the first thousand days policy through an ethnographic study of the everyday lives of pregnant women in Khayelitsha, South Africa, where national nutritional policy now focuses on the perinatal period. Drawing on 14 months of ethnographic fieldwork (July 2014 – September 2015) in antenatal clinics and maternal communities in Khayelitsha, this work provides insights into how new understandings of health and heredity produce global imaginaries with material impacts on policy, publics and concepts of life. I am currently preparing a monograph based on my doctoral work on this topic.

For more information on other projects within the First Thousand Days Research Group at the University of Cape Town, click here.

2017-2018 Urban animals, human livelihoods and health in the global south: a trans-species approach

With Dr Maan Barua, Dr Jamie Lorimer (University of Oxford), Dr Thomas Cousins (Stellenbosch University) and Dr Sushrut Jadhav (UCL)

This pilot study is funded by a Wellcome Trust Seed Grant in Humanities and Social Sciences. Combining ethnographic enquiry with analytics of comparative urbanisms, its goal is to develop concepts for understanding human-animal relations in megacities and their health implications in the global south. Central to this goal is to adopt a novel trans-species approach, moving away from anthropocentric leanings of urban studies and public health.

2015-2017 The Humanization of Health Science through Innovation in Health Professions Education – The Rationale, Trends, Obstacles and Ways Forward for Integrating the Humanities and Social Sciences into Health Sciences Curricula

With Dr Berna Gerber (Speech Therapy, Stellenbosch University, South Africa), Dr. Guddi Singh (MedAct, UK), Dr. Megan Wainwright (Public Health and Family Medicine, University of Cape Town, South Africa), Dr. Thomas Cousins (Anthropology, Stellenbosch University, South Africa), Dr. Lizahn Gracia Cloete (Occupational Therapy, Stellenbosch University, South Africa) and Ferdinand Mukumbang (Public Health, University of the Western Cape, South Africa)

This working group is interested in the integration of non-traditional sources of knowledge into health sciences education. This includes incorporating theoretical and empirical work from social sciences and humanities into nursing, physiotherapy, speech therapy, rehabilitation, medicine and public health curriculums. In 2016, the group hosted sister workshops in Stellenbosch and Geneva to bring together scholars working at the forefront of medical education and medical humanities. Conference reports on this events can be found here on the Medical and Health Humanities Network site, and here on Somatosphere.