CFA: Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in the Medical Humanities
by Sarah Emily Duff


POSTDOCTORAL FELLOWSHIP in the Medical Humanities

Re-considering lung disease in South Africa : the politics of data and
materiality in a century of mine silicosis.

In the present, and through our modern history, lung disease has been one
of the key sites of politics in modern South Africa. This political
importance is reflected in the richness of the science, the archives and
the data associated with silicosis in particular. For over a century the
distinctive evidence produced by the gold mines made the South African
science of silicosis globally authoritative in occupational health and the
legal field of industrial compensation. The material evidence produced by
the mines -- including the Pathaut database which covers deceased ex-miners
back to 1953, the statistics on compensation, diagnosis, and the published
research papers by the mine doctors and engineers -- may be the largest and
most systematic body of health information on the planet. It is certainly
unique in South Africa as an archive of health surveillance data. The
paradox of the richness of this evidence and the ongoing severity of the
disease raises several key questions in contemporary debates about the
politics of knowledge across several disciplines. These include three major
problems, amongst many:

1. Does systematic surveillance produce strong health benefits? If so, how
and under what institutional and political circumstances?

2. What is the relationship, over the long term, between the epidemiology
of tuberculosis and mine-produced silicosis?

3. What can we learn from a descriptive study of dust measurements,
devices, and dust engineering about the causes and remedies of lung

4.  How did these dynamics of surveillance, treatment and compensation play
out regionally, and across the political and administrative boundaries in
southern Africa?

The Medical Humanities project at WISER calls for proposals for a two-year
post-doctoral fellowship engaging with these or closely related problems. 
The appointed candidate would be responsible for assembling a large digital
repository of existing archival series, and for the supervision of Masters
and Honours students on related projects.

WiSER has over the last ten years established itself as the leading South
African interdisciplinary research institute in the Humanities and Social
Sciences, promoting local and international debate on the complexities of
change in South Africa and Africa, understood from comparative and global
perspectives. A strong commitment to doctoral training and supervision is a
critical part of WISER’s mission. Funding from the Andrew W Mellon
Foundation has enabled us to continue our long-standing doctoral fellowship
programme. For more information about our staff and research themes see

This is a full-time programme and is not compatible with other employment.
Fellows will work within the Institute, and be expected to work closely
with research staff, and to participate fully in the intellectual life of
the Institute. Fellows will receive funding for two years; the package for
the first year will be R250 000 and include funds for research expenses and
a living allowance. Some assistance with conference funding may also be

To apply, please submit the following:

1. A detailed covering letter explaining clearly and carefully your
interest in this project specifically.
2. A recent publication or piece of written work, drawing on your past
3. A detailed and up to date CV, which shows clearly your undergraduate and
postgraduate degrees and component courses of study.
4. Names and contact details (including email addresses) of three academic
5. Certified copies of degrees , diplomas and course records.

Incomplete applications will not be considered.  Shortlisted candidates
will be asked to provide

Applications should be sent by email to Ms. Najibha Deshmukh at

Closing date for applications: 1 August 2017