urban, health, political ecology, technoscience


— Resarch



Empirically, my research can be organized around three themes; each theme questions different geographies of “life”. 

  1. Microscopic Life. How do cities prepare for future infectious disease outbreaks? This line of inquiry investigates human migration, public health, and urban planning, but also how disease outbreaks are tied to environments and people.
  2.  Excess Life. How do experts demarcate people they deem to be unproductive? I examine the emergence of different population categories, such as healthy national workforce of the early 20th century, “disadvantaged child” of the 1960s, and more recently those struggling with chronic pain and disability.
  3. Life Sciences. How are scientific theories used and abused within the longstanding, and tired, debate of nature versus nurture? In turn, what practices, and the political economy behind these practices, arise from these theories? I track debates in bacteriology, IQ and child development, urban toxicity, and the funding of biomedicine research and development.


My research trajectory has moved from historical anxieties around epidemics to current fears around productivity. During these transitions, I noticed that the figure of these concerns moved from the male worker to the child.


Past Research

I examined how diseased migration formed as a concept, distinct from a healthy national population. My postdoctoral research project, entitled “Sick Pilgrims, Quarantine Science: Managing Populations after the Fifth Cholera Pandemic, 1892-1924”, asked why the Hajj pilgrimage became the dominant model for health experts who imagined the problem of sick itinerate populations.

I examined how “disadvantaged children” became a site to compensate and intervene in, during a period of national crisis in the 1960s. I focus on specific experts in the War on Poverty, such as child psychologists, educators, and pre-school policy planners. I examine how experts constructed and evaluated children’s mental growth in concert with their home environments.

In my dissertation I researched cholera, marsh reclamation, and the science and expertise of urban health. I traced the historical links between the state control of cholera with the ecology and economy of waterfronts to show the ways that they reinforce one another. My research unpacks how North American cities prepared for cholera pandemic that threatened, but never became the crisis that it was feared to be.

In my Masters of Environmental Studies and Planning, I wrote on food-based diseases, agriculture, and urban growth. I interrogated how and why avian influenza looms large on the horizons of North American cities. This research demystified actions taken in cities and nations against contemporary disease outbreaks and opened the door to my larger historical inquiry of epidemic crises.

On-Going Interests

+ The debates around overpopulation, migration, and the policing of borders.
+ The history and political economy of vaccine innovation, along with the current economics of drug logistics firms.
+ How the funding of scientific research influences, and is influenced, by national politics.
+ How the financial crisis of 2008 and austerity measures has restructured everyday life, in particular through health and social reproduction.
+ Newly emerging diseases, such as H1N1, H5N1, and antibiotic resistant bacteria.