Julie Livingston

Professor of History, Social and Cultural Analysis

PhD; Emory University (2001)

Field of Study: 


Research Interests: 

The Body; Gender; Care; History and Anthropology; Medicine and Public Health; Ethnographic Writing; Southern Africa; Interspecies, Disability.

Curriculum Vitae


I am interested in care as a social practice and the human body as a moral condition and mode of experience. I am also interested in taxonomy and relationships that upend or complicate it. Much of my research has focused on the ethical entanglements engendered by bodily vulnerability. I am also a committed ethnographer. My work moves across and often combines the disciplines of history, public health, and anthropology. For the past two decades I have worked mainly in Botswana, in southern Africa. My first book, Debility and the Moral Imagination in Botswana employed historical and anthropological methods to explore the rise in three domains of debility in Botswana over the past century: disability, chronic illness, and senescence. The book pursued pragmatic concerns that arise in the face of debility in a migrant labor regime, and also related epistemological and moral questions that emerge amid profound disruptions of bodily norms. My second book, Improvising Medicine is an ethnography of Botswana’s lone cancer ward. The book narrates the story of this place as a microcosm of global health and the cancer epidemic rapidly emerging in the global south, while also using this setting to query the movement of carcinogenic capitalism, and the master-narratives of cancer in the U.S and the global north more broadly.

I am now beginning research and writing on two new projects. The first is a set of essays on the planetary politics of consumption as seen from Botswana. The second is a book on comorbidity and aging in New York and southern Africa.


MacArthur Fellowship, William H Welch Medal (American Association for the History of Medicine), Victor Turner Prize for Ethnographic Writing, Wellcome Medal for Anthropology (Royal Anthropological Association), Cultural Horizons Prize Honorable Mention (Society for Cultural Anthropology), Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.

Selected Works:

Improvising Medicine: An African Oncology Ward in an Emerging Cancer Epidemic. Durham: Duke University Press, 2012.

Debility and the Moral Imagination in Botswana (African Systems of Thought Series) Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2005.  

Edited Books

Interspecies.  Special issue of Social Text.  (co-edited with Jasbir Puar) Issue 106, spring 2011.

Three Shots at Prevention: The HPV Vaccine and the Politics of Medicine's Simple Solutions. Eds. Keith Wailoo, Julie Livingston, Steven Epstein, and Robert Aronowitz. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2010.

A Death Retold: Jesica Santillan, the Bungled Transplant, and the Paradoxes of Medical Citizenship.  Eds. Keith Wailoo, Julie Livingston and Peter Guarnaccia. (Studies in Social Medicine Series) Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2006.


Select Articles and Chapters:


“Figuring the Tumor,” Raritan Quarterly, summer 2014: 10-24.

“Revealed in the Wound,” The Journal of Clinical Oncology 31:29 (October 10, 2013): 3719-3720

“Transforming Concepts of Aging: Three Case Studies,” (co-authored with Margaret Lock, Sharon Kaufman, and Hong Zhang) The Oxford Textbook of Old Age Psychiatry, 5th Edition.  Tom Dening and Alan Thomas eds. Oxford University Press, 2013

“The Social Phenomenology of the Next Epidemic: Pain and the Politics of Relief in Botswana’s Cancer Ward,” in When People Come First: Critical Studies in Global Health, João Biehl and Adriana Petryna eds. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2013.

reprinted in Anthropology of Living and Dying in the Contemporary World, Clara Han and Veena Das eds., (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2015).

“AHR Conversation: The Historical Study of Emotions” (with Nicole Eustace, Eugenia Lean, Jan Plamper, William Reddy, and Barbara Rosenwein) American Historical Review, 117:5 (2012): 1487-1531

“Interspecies,” (co-authored with Jasbir Puar) Social Text 106, 2011

“Suicide, Risk, and Investment in the Heart of the African Miracle,” Cultural Anthropology, 24:4 (2009): 652-680

“AIDS” (co-authored with Ed Cohen), Keywords, Social Text 100th issue, 27:3 (2009): 39-42

“Disgust, Bodily Aesthetics, and the Ethic of Being Human in Botswana.” Africa, 78:2 (2008): 288-307

“Productive Misunderstandings and the Dynamism of Plural Medicine in Mid-century Bechuanaland,” Journal of Southern African Studies, 33:4 (2007): 801-810

“Maintaining local dependencies: elderly women and global rehabilitation agendas in Botswana.” In Jennifer Cole and Deborah Durham eds. Generations and Globalization: Family, Youth, and Age in the New World Economy (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006): 164-189.

“Insights from an African History of Disability,” Radical History Review, Special Issue on Disability and History, 94 (2006): 111-126 

“AIDS as Chronic Illness: Epidemiological Transition and Health Care in Southeastern Botswana.”  African Journal of AIDS Research 3:1, (2004): 15-22.

“Reconfiguring Old Age: Elderly Women and Concerns Over Care in Southeastern Botswana” Medical Anthropology 22:2 (2003): 205-231.

“Pregnant Children and Half-Dead Adults: Modern Living and the Quickening Life-Cycle in Botswana.”  Bulletin of the History of Medicine 77:1, (2003): 133-162.

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Updated on 09/14/2015