Professor Roberta Bivins
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r dot bivins at warwick dot ac dot uk
I am currently doing research in two areas. First, building on my portfolio of work on migration and medicine (e.g., Contagious Communities, 2015) I'm looking at technologies and practices of border control, and their intersections with biomedicine. From quarantines and 'excludable conditions' to X-rays and DNA, Britain's borders have long been medicalised. But what does that mean for migrants, medical practitioners, and communities? Does the medicalisation of borders provide any public health benefits (a matter of some urgency in Covid times), or is it just another instance of the biopolitics of privilege?
My second strand of research looks at ideas of inclusion and equality from a slightly different perspective, building on my interests in comparative health systems and health environments. With an eye to metabolic disease and obesity, I'm asking 'how do we define and recognise health in ourselves and others'? Whose definitions of health 'count', and how have the historical processes of defining health and illness contributed to the persistence of systemic inequality in health outcomes. Bringing these two strands of research together is my growing interest in emerging embodied cultures of self- and citizen-management and 'responsibilization' at the borders, whether of the body, the community, or the state.
Alongside these new directions, I continue to be interested in the Cultural History of the NHS. From 2015-2020, Mathew Thomson and I led a Wellcome Trust-funded project to uncover what the NHS meant to people in Britain, and how it came to have such emotional and political resonance. A significant portion of this research was done working closely with the public, and their input was a key driver of our research agenda. As well as a series of Open Access articles and an OA edited volume (all available from links here), the fruits of this collaboration were captured in a 'People's Encyclopaedia of the NHS' and a 'Virtual Museum of the NHS'.
NEW FOR 2022-2023: HI2H9 Surveillance States: Biometrics from the Border to the Bathroom 15 CAT module for students in Year 2.
HI3H7 Foreign Bodies, Contagious Communities: Migration in the Modern World 30-CAT Module for Finalists
HI176 Mind Body and Society: The History of Medicine and Health Team-taught 30 CAT first-year option module.
HI991 Matters of Life and Death: Topics in the Medical Humanities (team-taught MA module)
HI907 Themes and Methods in Medical History (team-taught MA module)
- Professor, Department of History, University of Warwick (2016- ).
- Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Warwick (2008-16).
- Wellcome Lecturer/Senior Lecturer in the History of Medicine, Cardiff University (2004-8).
- Assistant Professor, History of Medicine, University of Houston (2001-3).
- Research Associate, Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester (2000-1).
- Wellcome Postdoctoral Fellow, Centre for the History of Science, Technology and Medicine, University of Manchester (1997-2000).
- Wellcome Fellow, Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine, London (1996-7).
- PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1997.
- BA, Columbia College, Columbia University, 1991.
- Contagious Communities: Medicine, Migration, and the NHS in Post War Britain (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).
- Alternative Medicine? A History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007, republished in paperback 2010).
- Translated into Chinese, Soochow University Press, 2022.
- Medicine, Madness and Social History: Essays in Honour of Roy Porter, edited with John Pickstone (London: Palgrave, 2007).
- Acupuncture, Expertise, and Cross-Cultural Medicine (London: Palgrave, 2000).
- 'Pilot programmes and postcolonial pivots: Pioneering 'DNA Fingerprinting' on Britain's borders'. In Contemporary Studies in Society and History, Online First, (Jan 2023).
- Forgone, Not Forgotten: “DNA Fingerprinting,” Migration Control and Britain’s DNA Profiling Pilot Project'. In Science, Technology, & Human Values, Online First, (Dec 2022).
- 'A spawning of the nether pit'? Welfare, warfare and American visions of Britain's National Health Service, 1948-58. in Jennifer Crane and Jane Hand, (eds), Posters, Protest and Prescriptions: Cultural Histories of the National Health Service in Britain (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2022).
- 'Suspect' screening: the limits of Britain's medicalised borders, 1962-1981. in Sevasti Trubeta, Christian Promitzer and Paul Weindling, (eds),
Medicalising borders: Selection, containment and quarantine since 1800 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2021).
- Commentary: Serving the nation, serving the people: echoes of war in the early NHS. Medical Humanities, Online First, (June 2020), DOI: 10.1136/medhum-2019-011760
- 'Weighing on us all? Quantification and cultural responses to obesity in NHS Britain', in History of Science, Vol 58, Issue 2, (June 2020), doi.org/10.1177/0073275319842965.
- With Stephanie Tierney and Kate Seers, 'Compassion in Nursing: Solution or Sterotype?', in Nursing Inquiry, Online First, (Dec 2018), DOI: 10.1111/nin.12271.
- With Julie A Schmittdiel, Wendy T Dyer and Cassondra J Marshall, 'Using Neighborhood-Level Census Data to Predict Diabetes Progression in Patients with Laboratory-Defined Prediabetes', in The Permanente Journal, (Oct 2018): doi.org/10.7812/TPP/18-096.
- With Kate Seers and Stephanie Tierney, 'Compassionate Care: Not easy, not free, not only nurses', in BMJ Quality & Safety, Online First, (Sep 2017): doi: 10.1136/bmjqs-2017-007005.
- 'Picturing Race in the British National Health Service, 1948-1988', Twentieth Century British History, Vol 28, 1, (March 2017): doi: 10.1093/tcbh/hww059.
- 'Re-writing the ‘English disease’: Migration, Ethnicity and ‘Tropical Rickets’, in Mark Jackson (ed.), The Routledge History of Disease (London: Routledge, 2016).
- with Hilary Marland, ‘Weighting for Health: Management, Measurement and Self-Surveillance in the Modern Household’, in special issue of Social History of Medicine 'Medicine in the Household', Vol 29, 4 (Nov 2016) (eds), Roberta Bivins and Hilary Marland.
- ‘Limits and Liberties: CAM, regulation and the medical consumer in historical perspective’, in Nicola K. Gale, and Jean V. McHale (eds), Routledge Handbook of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (London: Routledge, 2015).
- 'Imagining Acupuncture: Images and the Early Westernisation of Asian Medical Expertise', Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity, 7.2 (Jan 2014), 298-318. post-print PDF, courtesy Brill: 'Imagining Acupuncture'.
- 'Ideology and Disease Identity: The Politics of Rickets, 1929-1982', Medical Humanities, 39.2 (Dec 2013).
- 'Immigration, ethnicity and ‘public’ health policy in postcolonial Britain', in Catherine Cox and Hilary Marland, eds, Migration, Health and Illness in the Modern World (London: Palgrave, 2013) 126-150.
- 'Coming "Home" to (post)Colonial Medicine: Tropical Bodies in Post-War Britain', Social History of Medicine 2012; doi: 10.1093/shm/hks058.
- 'Histories of Heterodoxy', in Mark Jackson (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of the History of Medicine (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 576-597.
- ‘"The people have no more love left for the Commonwealth”: Media, Migration and Identity in the 1961-2 British Smallpox Outbreak’, Immigrants and Minorities, 25 (November 2008) 3: 263-289.
- ‘Hybrid Vigour? Genes, Genomics, and History’, Genomics, Society and Policy 14 (2008) 1: 12-22.
- '"The English Disease" or "Asian Rickets": Medical Responses to Post-Colonial Immigration', Bulletin of the History of Medicine, 81.3 (Autumn, 2007), 533-568.
- ‘Images and the Westward Transmission of Asian Medical Expertise’, in Xingxiang Zhongyi [A History of Chinese Medical Illustration] (Renmin Weisheng, 2007).
- 'Acupuncture and innovation: ‘New Age’ medicine in the NHS', in Jennifer Stanton (ed.), Innovations in Health and Medicine (Abingdon: Routledge, 2002) , 84-10.
- with Helen Valier, 'Organization, ethnicity and the British National Health Service', in Jennifer Stanton (ed.), Innovations in Health and Medicine (Abingdon: Routledge, 2002), 37-64.
- ‘Sex Cells: Gender and the Language of Bacterial Genetics’, Journal for the History of Biology 33:1 (2000): 113-139. Re-published
Among other topics, I am interested in:
- the relationship between technology and medicine, particularly in the 20th century;
- popular responses to genetics since WWII, for example in relation to genealogy and personal identity; genetic conditions/predispositions; and genetically modified organisms;
- Practices of care, cure, and health promotion in the 20th century household.
I will be happy to supervise dissertations in any of these areas.
Current and past doctoral students have studied:
- Dr Mari Nicholson-Preuss, Down and Out in Old J.D.: Urban Public Hospitals, Institutional Stigma and Medical Indigence in the Twentieth Century [UH Funded]
- Dr Rebecca Williams, The Khanna Study: Population and Development in India, 1953-1969 [AHRC-funded].
- Dr Martin Moore, A Question of Control?: Managing Professionals and Populations in Type-II Diabetes, 1948-1992 [ESRC-funded].
- Dr Jane Hand, Visualising Food as Modern Medicine: Gender, the Body, and Health Education in England, c. 1940-1990. [Wellcome funded].
- Dr Kyle Jackson, (co-supervisor with David Hardiman), 'Missionaries, and Medicine: Religious and Medical Contact in Northeast India' [Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada funded]
- Dr Fabiola Creed, 'Aesthetics, Addictions and Health Advice: Understanding ‘Tanorexia’ in Contemporary Britain, 1978-2016' [Wellcome funded].
- Dr Katey Logan (co-supervisor with Graeme Currie), Examination of the Boots Healthcare Provision. [ESRC funded]
- Ed Devane (co-supervisor with Mathew Thomson) Building the NHS: planning, publics and Britain's new state healthcare facilities, 1945 - 1974 [Wellcome Funded].
Past Undergraduate Modules:
- HI269 Medicine, Identity and Technology in Modern History (second-year option module).
- HI31L Medicine in America: Comparative Perspectives (final-year Advanced Option).
- Director, Centre for the History of Medicine (2012-2015), (2022- ).
- MA in the History of Medicine Course Director (2012-2015), (2022- ).
- Research Governance and Ethics Committee (2014- 2018).
- External Examiner, MA in History at University of Exeter (2014-17).
- Convenor for the IDEA Collaboration (2009- ).
- Admissions Tutor (2008-2011).