Research focus


The relations between disability and culture have been among the main research fields particular for the medical anthropologists. Currently the section has a particular focus on what is often termed the ‘vicious circle of disability and poverty’, exemplified by ethnographic studies in South Africa and China (Inner Mongolia and Tibet). These research projects are based on close cooperation with local partner institutions. Moreover, one professor emeritus is also involved in applied projects within this field.

Sexual and reproductive health:

HIV and Aids, and groups in particular vulnerable positions for acquiring HIV infections, has been an ongoing research theme at the section since 1994. The section’s research in this thematic area has been conducted in Norwegian and African contexts, and is currently focusing on same-sex attracted men in Tanzania, sex workers in Botswana and reproduction decisions among HIV positive couples in Malawi. Moreover, several projects at the section concern treatments of infertility, in Norwegian medical history and in Tibetan medicine. Recently completed projects on sexual and reproductive health include the history of menstruation in Norway, of female genital cutting among Somalis in Norway and perceptions and practices of illegal abortion in Ethiopia.

Asian medicine:

Non-Western medicines have been an important field of research since the establishment of the section. Initially the focus was on African medical traditions, but since the mid 1990s it has turned increasingly towards Asian medicines, and especially Chinese traditional medicine as practiced in Norway and more recently Tibetan medicine as practiced in People’s Republic of China.

Medicalization of everyday life:

An integral theme in the research history of the Section, ‘medicalization’ as a general phenomenon, has been developed as a specific field of inquiry over the last six years. Emphasis is on the ongoing medicalization of mundane daily activities such as bodily movement (including exercising and walking) and food and feeding, especially in the Norwegian context. Medicalization will be further pursued as a thematic field in the coming years, both as an aspect of other research (such as Asian medicine and disability) and through projects whose main focus will be on ‘medicalization’.

History of medical standardisation:

Work focuses on the standardisation of biological medicines in production and application (vaccines, hormones, fungal antibiotics). Work so far has focused on vaccines, but is now including other biologicals like antibiotics as well as medical practices such as the history of evidence-based medicine. Through this topic links with European partners are actively pursued.

Contemporary history of medicine in Norway:

We have in a series of public seminars explored memories of recent Norwegian medical history such as the closure of the Reitgjerdet forensic psychiatry or the arrival of AIDS. These so-called witness seminars (aktørseminarer) respond to current interest in historical matters in the medical community and aim at understanding historical events by investigating memories of participants.

History of infectious disease and antibiotic resistance:

Several studies related to this form the centre of our historical research activities. We study the traditionally low Norwegian resistance rates in a European context and the role of resistance in the R&D of medicines and their markets. The research area is related to an interest in the history of infectious diseases 18th to 20th centuries that medical historians in this section have pursued for many years. Previous work include the history of “the Norwegian radesyke”, the history of 19th and 20th century medical bacteriology and of a number of common infectious diseases including tropical infections. We have received funding for a project on history of Leprosy in 20th century Ethiopia. Studying antibiotic resistance in the context of the history of infectious disease it is going to be the main focus of work among the historians in the upcoming years. 

Published May 19, 2011 10:30 PM - Last modified July 16, 2014 12:05 PM