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Research themes

Understanding complexity and connectedness
Learn more about our initial research themes.

Our themes


Politics and Economies of Health and Wellbeing

Leads: Alex Broom, Lisa Adkins and Barbara Prainsack

While it is often assumed to be a characteristic of individuals, health is, in many ways, a global production, emergent at the nexus of political and economic interests.

The political and economic dimensions of health and wellbeing run much deeper than the life chances of individuals, or even the aggregate well-being of particular societies. Instead, they include different flows of capital, adjudications of value, avenues of profit-making, forms of care, mechanisms of accountability, and temporalities of perceptibility that vary across the local to global scale.

All of these dimensions variously interact in producing health and wellbeing for some, while undermining it for others. Looking beyond individual’s experiences of illness, here we foreground the connections between health and its global political and economic dimensions to reimagine what health and wellbeing mean - individually, collectively and planetarily.  

Broom, A. & Kenny, K. (2020) Survivorship: A Sociology of Cancer in Everyday Life, Routledge

Broom, A., Kenny, K., Kirby, E., & Lwin, Z. (2019). The collective/affective practice of cancer survivorship. The British Journal of Sociology70(4), 1582-1601.

Adkins, L., Cooper, M., Konings, M. (2020). The Asset Economy. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Adkins, L. (2018). The Time of Money. Stanford University Press.

Wagenaar, H. and Prainsack, B. (2021, in press). The Pandemic Within: Policy Making for a Better World. Bristol, UK: Policy Press.


Race, Ethnicity and the Biohumanities

Leads: Anthony Ryan Hatch, Amade M’charek, Anne Pollock and Nadine Ehlers

This theme focuses on the relationship between race, ethnicity, and health across various social contexts.

While health is often attributed to supposed biological differences based on racial or ethnic status, we explore how social, economic, political, and environmental factors contribute to disparities in health and become biologised.

Taking a biohumanities approach—which foregrounds humanities and social sciences perspectives on the contours of biological life—our concern is to map how poor health is linked to forms of racism, inequality, and structural violence.

Drawing on innovative interdisciplinary scholarship, the theme examines a broad and often-amorphous arena that encompasses efforts in (and relays between) the biological sciences, clinical medicine and public health, the pharmaceutical industry, and patient and community-based advocacy to address minority health and illness.

Ehlers, N., & Krupar, S. (2019). Deadly Biocultures: The Ethics of Life-making. U of Minnesota Press.

Ehlers, N., & Hinkson, L. R. (Eds.). (2017). Subprime health: Debt and Race in US Medicine. U of Minnesota Press.

Hatch, Anthony Ryan (2019) Silent Cells: The Secret Drugging of Captive America. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Hatch, Anthony Ryan (2016) Blood Sugar: Racial Pharmacology and Food Justice in Black America. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Pollock, A. (2012). Medicating race: Heart disease and durable preoccupations with difference. Duke University Press.

What about Race? Amade M’charek & Irene van Oorschot. Forthcoming in A. Blok, I. Farias & C. Roberts (eds.) Routledge Companion to Actor-Network Theory. London: Taylor & Francis.

M'charek, A., & Schramm, K. (2020). Encountering the Face—Unraveling Race. American Anthropologist.


A highly magnified, digitally colorized scanning electron microscopic image, revealing ultrastructural details of numerous yellow colored, Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) viral particles.

Human-Microbial and Multispecies Relations

Leads: Alex Broom, Katie Kenny, Danielle Celermajer and Assa Doron

As a species, humankind has created conditions of existence that now variously threaten our health, our societies, and the environment that sustains us.

From accelerating extinction and the loss of biodiversity, to the rise of ‘superbugs’, our relationship with the non-human world plays a central role in shaping our collective health, as well as our social, political and economic futures.

We aim to challenge understandings of the complex relationships between humans and the various co-habitants of our planet, from the smallest microbes to the global patterns of production that drive climate change.

Drawing on innovative scholarship across the full spectrum of social sciences and humanities, we are rethinking health, across time, place and scale.

Broom, A., Kenny, K., Prainsack, B. Broom, J. (2020) Antimicrobial resistance as a problem of values? Views from three continents. Critical Public Health https://doi.org/10.1080/09581596.2020.1725444

Broom, A., Doron, A. (2020) Antimicrobial resistance, politics and practice in India. Qualitative Health Research https://doi.org/10.1177/1049732320919088

Doron, A and Broom, A. (2019) The spectre of superbugs: Waste, structural violence and antimicrobial resistance in India. Worldwide Waste: Journal of Interdisciplinary Studies, 2(1)7, 1-10 https://doi.org/10.5334/wwwj.20

Doron, A., Jeffrey, R. (2018). Waste of a nation: Garbage and growth in India. Harvard University Press.


Work, Education and Welfare

Lead: Gaby Ramia, Michelle Peterie, Myra Hamilton

Health and wellbeing are deeply embedded in the multiple dimensions of ‘welfare’ across place and setting, which include, but extend well beyond, the formalised welfare state.

Welfare, in the broadest sense, refers to the wellbeing of individuals, families and communities, but it also necessarily denotes the institutional structures (i.e. social security, housing, education, employment) through which it is shaped.

This theme will use sociological, political science and anthropological approaches as well as the specialist techniques of policy, governance, regulation and administrative analysis, to focus on the critical analysis of the multifarious institutions of work, education and welfare, including, but not limited to: informal care; formal employment and working conditions; state-provided and marketised income assistance; formal education (including early childhood, schools, and the technical and higher education levels); public and private housing; and, how these spheres intersect with community health and wellbeing.

Ramia, G. (2020). Governing Social Protection in the Long Term: Social Policy and Employment Relations in Australia and New Zealand. Palgrave.


Publications