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School of History, Philosophy and Culture
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
History of western science, psychiatry and medicine; inter-relationship between modern medicine and indigenous healing from the eighteenth to the twentieth century; transnational perspectives, global history and culture.
Main historical period covered: c. 1750-2000
In my work on the social history of western medicine and science c. 1750 - 2000, I am particularly interested in the inter-relationship between biomedicine and other paradigms of healing. I am comfortable with applying a multidisciplinary perspective to my research topics and in my writing I explore the various dimensions involved in the construction of what counts as 'health', 'illness' and 'medicine/science' at different times and places: the political/state perspective; institutions; medical professions and 'folk' traditions; the patients' perspective; scientific theories and practices; myths, beliefs and representations.
Waltraud Ernst was educated at the University of Konstanz, Germany, where she studied Social Sciences, specialising in International Politics, Sociology, and Psychology. She did her dissertation in 1982 in Cultural Psychology (Prof. E.E. Boesch) as an affiliate of the Socio-Psychological Research Centre for Development Planning, University of the Saar, on ethno-psychoanalytical case studies of women migrating from the Meru region in Kenya to Nairobi. This was based on field-work visits to the Meru district during 1980 and 1981. She subsequently worked on a project on "Mad Colonisers" in the Division of "Probleme des Fremdverstehens und inter-kulturelle Kommunikation" in the Sociology Department at Konstanz (Prof. D. Kantowsky). She received her PhD in the History of South Asia at the School of Oriental and African Studies in 1987, with a dissertation on psychiatry and mental illness in South Asia, c. 1780-1858 (Prof. Kenneth Ballhatchet). From 1988 to 1989, she was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Prof. R. Porter) at the Wellcome Institute in London, continuing her work on colonial psychiatry. Following practical work as a Senior Clinical Psychologist at Hutt Hospital and psychotherapist in private practice in Wellington, New Zealand, she worked on the history of Pakeha psychiatry and Maori mental healing in the Department of Sociology at Victoria University Wellington. She joined the Sociology Department at Southampton University in 1994 as a Wellcome University Award Holder, focusing on the comparative historical sociology of mental health and healing in British India and the Pacific. She moved to the History Department at Southampton in 1998 and joined History at Oxford Brookes University in December 2008 as Professor in the History of Medicine, 1700-2000.
This book offers an innovative engagement with the diverse histories of colonial and indigenous medicines. Engagement with different kinds of colonialism and varied indigenous socio-political cultures has led to a wide range of approaches and increasingly distinct traditions of historical writing about colonial and indigenous modes of healing have emerged in the various regions formerly ruled by different colonial powers. The volume offers a much-needed opportunity to explore new conceptual perspectives and encourages critical reflection on how scholars' research specialisms have influenced their approaches to the history of medicine and healing. The book includes contributions on different geographical regions in Asia, Africa and the Americas and within the varied contexts of Chinese, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Dutch and British colonialisms. It deals with issues such as internal colonialism, the plural history of objects, transregional circulation and entanglement, and the historicisation of medical historiography. The chapters in the volume explore the scope for conceptual interaction between authors from diverse disciplines and different regions, highlighting the synergies and thematic commonalities as well as differences and divergences.
The motivation for leaving one’s homeland on a permanent or temporary basis has been identified in studies on migration as an important factor influencing migrants’ physical and mental wellbeing. It has been argued that migrants might possess different characteristics from those inclined to stay behind and may be more, or less, prone to developing particular physical or mental conditions. Push and pull factors have been highlighted most commonly, with economic hardship being considered typical of the former and the expectation of rewarding career prospects or exciting adventures of the latter. Either way, disappointment, feelings of dislocation and utter despair may affect both permanent and temporary migrants. Conversely, migration may not always result in deteriorating mental and physical health, it can sometimes lead to better health and happiness following departure from adverse circumstances in the home country. Research tends to focus on the negative effects of migration on health and on the stresses and challenges migrants face, rather than any enabling and beneficial factors.
Adjunct Professor Division of Health and Humanities, St John's Research Institute, St John's National Academy of Health Sciences, Sarjapur Road, Bangalore, India 560034http://www.stjohns.in/research/