Ruth Jane Prince

Image of Ruth Jane Prince
Norwegian version of this page
Phone +47 22857590
Visiting address Kirkeveien 166 Fredrik Holsts hus 0450 Oslo
Postal address Postboks 1130 Blindern 0318 Oslo

Academic Interests

medical anthropology; global health; Kenya, East Africa; epidemics; care; cancer and chronic disease; health systems; citizenship and the state; social protection and welfare; toxicity; postcoloniality

Higher education and employment history

Ruth Prince is associate professor in medical anthropology at the Institute of Health and Society. She trained as an anthropologist at the universities of Copenhagen, UCL, and Oxford. 

Link to Academia page

I lead an European Research Council Starting Grant project titled "Universal Health Coverage and the Public Good in Africa: Anthropological and Historical Perspectives". This 5-year anthropological and historical study (2018-2023) explores new models of social protection, development and welfare in Africa, asking how African governments are experimenting with universal health coverage, how this is related to universal health care, and what this means for the relationship between the state and its citizens. The project team is conducting ethnographic and historical research with state bureaucracies and global health actors, healthcare institutions, health insurance and digital health projects, and citizenship groups.

Before taking up her current position Ruth Prince was Senior Research Associate at the Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge. Prior positions include a Mellon fellowship in "Science, Medicine and Society in Africa" held at the University of Cambridge and an ESRC and Smuts Postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Cambridge. 

Her publications include Making and Unmaking Public Health in Africa, edited with Rebecca Marsland (Ohio UP, 2014), and Volunteer Economies, edited with Hannah Brown (James Currey, 2016) as well as several special issues in Africa, Medical Anthropology Quarterly, African Studies Review, Visual Anthropology and Anthropology TodayThe Land is Dying: Contingency, Creativity and Conflict in Western Kenya, written with Wenzel Geissler,  was co-winner of the Royal Anthropological Institute’s 2010 Amuary Talbot Prize for best book in African Anthropology.

Recent research:

1) "Chronic disease and care". Research focused on labours and practices of care surrounding cancer and diabetes patients in Kenya. (NRC FRISAM, 2013-2017). 

2) "Engagement and detachment: An ethnographic study of the moral dilemmas surrounding care in a public hospital". Research explored struggles surrounding care in a public hospital in the context of austerity, growing socio-economic inequality, chronic disease, and the expansion of private medical markets. (Norwegian Research Council, FRISAM fellowship, 2013-2017).

3) "Developmental modernism in the east African city: Soviet medical aid to Kenya and its afterlives". Research explored legacies of the cold war in Kenya, drawing on archival work and oral histories of Kenyan doctors trained in the Soviet Union. 

4) “Volunteer economies: Urban youth, labour, precarity, and the east African city”; Wellcome Trust collaborative pilot grant on “Street-level health workers in African cities” (2011-12). 

5) “Humanitarian interventions and moral economies of care”: Focusing on urban Kenya, this project explored forms of claim-making taking shape around humanitarian and transnational interventions into health. (University of Cambridge Smuts fund, Mellon Foundation, and Max Planck institute for Social Anthropology) (2008-2011).


PhD supervision (current)

Vilde Fastvold Thorbjørsen

Cynthia Khamala Wangamati

Edwin Amemo

Signe Mikkelsen

Christian Medaas (co-)

Samwel Ntapanda (co-)




  • The Royal Anthropological Institute’s Amuary Talbot Prize for best book in African Anthropology, 2010. Awarded to "The Land is Dying Contingency, Creativity and Conflict in western Kenya" by PW Geissler & RJ Prince
  • Winner of the RAI's Documentary Film Student Prize 2003.  For "Adhiambo - Born in the Evening. Two Months in the Life of a Kenyan Mother and her Newborn Daughter". Prince, RJ, Geissler PW, Tuchtenhagen G., Neubert-Maric, M. 2002. (Digital Video Film, 68 min.). Copenhagen, Hamburg and Cambridge: Filmwerkstatt Dokumentarisch Arbeiten (Distr. Royal Anthropological Institute).

Research grants and appointments

  • European Research Council Starting Grant (Principal Investigator) (SH5) (2018-23)
  • Norwegian Research Council FRIPRO/Global Health (PI) (2021-2025)
  • Norwegian Research Council FRISAM fellowship (2013-6)
  • Senior Research Associate, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge
  • Mellon Fellow, University of Cambridge, 2010-12 (History and Philosophy of Science and Centre of African Studies)
  • Smuts Research Fellow, Centre of African Studies, University of Cambridge, 2007-10
  • ESRC Postdoctoral fellow, Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge, 2007-8


  • I work with partners in Kenya (University of Nairobi and Maseno University, and the Kenya Medical Research Institute) and in Tanzania (National Institute of Medical Research and the University of Dar-es-Salaam). 

  • Co-investigator, Wellcome Trust collaborative pilot grant for “Street Level health workers and the African city”(with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) 2010
  • British Academy Visiting Scholars International Engagement grant, 2011 (Dr Benson Mulemi,Catholic University of East Africa)
  • Collaborator on “Global Social Inequality and the Anthropology of Uncertainty, Contingency and Future Orientation”. Norges Forskningsråd (the Norwegian Research Council), Prosjektnummer 222821, ISP-sammfunnsvitenskap (with University of Trondheim).2013-15
Tags: Social protection, Welfare, Bureaucracy, Citizenship, Biopolitics, Medical Anthropology, Historical anthropology, Temporality, Postcolonial history, Global health, Toxicity, epidemics, Africa
Published Sep. 11, 2014 10:39 AM - Last modified Sep. 3, 2021 11:42 AM