ESRC Postdoctoral Fellow
Dr Janet Perkins
University of Edinburgh
My research focuses on the commodification of maternal health services and biomedical technologies in peri-urban and rural Bangladesh, illuminating how technology and commodification reshape the medico-social worlds of pregnancy and birth. Academic and policy discourses around burgeoning health markets in the Global South often provide an explicit or implicit moral critique of the privatisation of healthcare, predominantly portraying health markets as an outgrowth of global neoliberal hegemony and tends to be critical of their effects. My research destabilises these assumptions, attending to the situatedness of maternal health markets and the intrinsic moralities of care that emerge and are renegotiated within and in response to health markets. This research makes significant contributions to social science in three key areas: it problematises tropes of health markets as amoral or immoral and elucidates emergent moralities within markets; it expands thinking into the social lives of health technologies, attending to the co-construction of advanced maternal health technologies and the social worlds of pregnancy and childbirth; and it contributes to academic and critical policy discussions as private health services mushroom throughout the Global South, extending thinking beyond reified discourses, and opening alternate imaginaries for private health sector engagements.
Goals for the fellowship:
My overall goal for the fellowship is to successfully consolidate my research findings and maximise its impact. I aspire to generate substantial research outputs based on my PhD research, thereby laying the foundation for a successful career as an academic anthropologist. It will allow me to transform academic and policy debates related to maternal health technologies and health markets in the global South to accommodate nuanced accounts of the situatedness of such therapeutic landscapes.
I will work towards achieving these aspirations by:
- Consolidating my research findings: I will return to my PhD field site and spend one month in private health clinics to generate ethnographic data. This will allow me to test and finetune my initial findings for developing research outputs.
- Positioning myself as a scholar in anthropology at the forefront of debates on health markets and maternal health technologies: I will do this by transforming my PhD thesis into an academic monograph and pitching the monograph to leading academic presses. By the end of the fellowship, I intend to have a publication-ready monograph draft moving towards publication under contract. I will also prepare and submit at least one manuscript to a leading peer-reviewed anthropology journal, e.g., the American Ethnologist and/or Cultural Anthropology, and present my research during at least one large social science conference in UK/Europe.
- Transforming policy debates: Currently, policy debates related to the technologisation and commodification of pregnancy and birth care in Bangladesh tend to be urban-centric, essentialise women as unnecessarily and problematically overusing commodified maternal health technologies and carry a negative valence toward the private health sector as exploitative and compromising clinical quality in the interest of maximising profits according to capitalist logics. Building on over a decade of work in Bangladesh as a global health practicioner and PhD researcher, I intend to engage in knowledge exchange and impact by organising two workshops with Bangladeshi collaborators. These will bring together public health officials, private health actors, development partners and researchers to exchange knowledge and push debates past reified discourses.
- Expanding my teaching skillset: I intend to expand the breadth of my teaching skillset through co-convening the Anthropology of Global Health course and sharing my research through guest lectures in academic courses at the University of Edinburgh
Advice for future applicants:
While navigating post-PhD life can be stressful, try to enjoy the application process itself. Regardless of the outcome, it is a phenomenal exercise to work through how you want to level up the research that you have put a good portion of your life (and likely your heart and soul) into. It is an incredible privilege to have the support of mentors and peers to assist in the process and a valuable learning experience.