Dr Karen Brown

Karen Brown
Post Doctoral Researcher

I joined African Studies in October 2013 and have a six-month research contract to develop funding proposals in African studies. Previously I was a research fellow at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine at Oxford. My background is in history and I have worked primarily on environmental and veterinary issues in southern Africa.

My monograph, Mad Dog and Meerkats: A History of Resurgent Rabies in Southern Africa, explored the history of rabies in southern Africa and showed how, unlike in many western nations, rabies is a disease that has been on the rise in southern Africa in recent decades, rather than in decline. I argue that a complex web of ecological, cultural, racial and political factors gave rise to that contingency.

In addition, I have published a range of historical articles on the environmental history of the early twentieth century Cape Colony, as well as papers on the evolution of veterinary science and studies of diseases that have undermined the South African livestock economy. I also co-edited a collection

of conference papers in a book entitled Healing the Herds: Disease, Livestock Economies, and the Globalization of Veterinary Medicine. These essays explored the medical, social and political history of animal diseases in a number of countries and included several papers on Africa. 

My recent work has had a much more contemporary flavour. Working with William Beinart on an ESRC funded research project that looked at the social history of veterinary medicine in South Africa, I interviewed African smallholders at several field sites, exploring their conceptualisations of disease and approaches to animal health and husbandry. This has been a fascinating field of investigation and one that I wish to pursue further in future. Our book African Knowledge & Livestock Health: Traditional, Environmental and Biomedical Approaches in South Africa is due out in November 2013. See here for further information about the project.