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Dr. R. Peckham
Associate Professor Robert PeckhamUndergraduate Coordinator and Chief Examiner

 

BA, PhD King's College London

Office

Phone No. Email Address HKU Scholars Hub

Office: 10.45

3917-7048

rpeckham@hku.hk
hub.hku.hk/rp/rp01193
www.soh.hku.hk/peckham/

 

Research Projects | Publications | Courses | RPG Supervisions

 

Robert Peckham lectures on the history of medicine and health in the Department of History and in 2010 introduced cross-faculty teaching modules on global histories of disease and public health.

 

He is a founder and Director of the Centre for the Humanities and Medicine (CHM), a joint initiative of the Faculty of Arts and the Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine at the University of Hong Kong, where he oversees a programme of research projects involving a wide range of disciplines networked to national and international institutions. From 2008-2011 he was Visiting Fellow at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He has also held fellowships at St. Catharine's College, Cambridge and St. Peter's College, Oxford, and he has been the recipient of a Senior Alexander S. Onassis Foundation Fellowship. In 2015, he was King's College London-HKU Fellow.

 

 

 

Research Interests and Projects

 

Robert’s current research focuses on the social, cultural, and political dimensions of infectious disease in modern Asia. An ongoing project examines the repurposing of communication technologies for epidemic surveillance: from the telegraph, telephone and radio, to satellites and aerial robotics ('drones'). He has also written on imperial medicine, colonialism, and the modern state. Informing his research is an interest in space, place, and the securitization of health. These convergent interests evolved from earlier work on the deployment of Western state-building technologies and institutional practices in the former territories of the Ottoman Empire in Southeast Europe. Listen to an interview on the New Books Network (NBN). He is currently the Principal Investigator of the following research projects:

 

'Techno-Imperialism and the Origins of Global Health,' supported by a GRF award from the Research Grants Council of Hong Kong.

 

'Political Ecologies: Drones and Emerging Infections in Southeast Asia.'

 

Learn more

 

 

Publications

 

Epidemics in Modern Asia

Epidemics in Modern Asia

"This work provides a new model for historians who have an interest in disease epidemics and gives the epidemiologists, who are currently highly medicalised, the opportunity to appreciate the foresight of Rudolf Virchow, a giant in the field of bioscience in Germany in the 19th century and the father of modern pathology, as well as one of the founders of modern public health, who stressed the importance of understanding social, cultural, economic, and political context of epidemics and the social actions needed to tackle them,"

 

- Lancet Infectious Diseases, vol.16, no.12 (2016), p.1344.

 

Empires of Panic: Epidemics and Colonial Anxieties

"This collection of essays on panic and empire is not only thought-provoking but also very timely. As the 2016 U.S. presidential race unfolds, dystopian visions of the future are creating panic among portions of the American electorate. By systematically analysing how panics, particularly those precipitated by disease but also other crises including terrorism, have historically been produced, defined, and managed in different imperial and post-imperial settings over the past two centuries, contributors to Empires of Panic offer important insights into the highly charged 'panic politics' of the present,"

 

- Carol A. Benedict, Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society HK Branch, vol.56 (2016), pp.243-246.

 

"It should become clear to anyone reading this volume that the subject-matter at hand is important: we'll likely live or terminate ourselves as a species based on how we handle such pandemics in the future, given the terrifying speed with which the planet has now knitted itself together. In this respect, Empires of Panic is a real service to the field, both in showing that the past is prologue, as the saying goes, and also in warning us that not to take such lessons seriously would be foolhardy indeed,"

 

- Eric Tagliacozzo, Asia Pacific Perspectives, vol.14, no.1 (2016), pp.119-120.

 

Empires of Panic: Epidemics and Colonial Anxieties

Disease and Crime: A History of Social Pathologies and the New Politics of Health

Disease and Crime: A History of Social Pathologies and the New Politics of Health

"Disease and Crime is a well-integrated collection of essays that span the (post-) colonial histories of medicine, law and politics in East Asia and Europe. Comprising eight compact chapters and an admirably well-synthesized introduction, this volume takes an interdisciplinary, cross-cultural and comparative approach. Unlike many edited volumes, Disease and Crime is superbly organized and can be read cover to cover. Vibrant theoretical discussions are grounded in context-driven case studies examining the social, cultural and political forces that shape categories of disease and crime... This highly readable volume will interest scholars in anthropology, history, sociology, medical humanities and area studies. As an excellent example of solid, high quality, robust scholarship, Disease and Crime will satisfy early career researchers and experienced academics alike,"

 

- Social History, vol.40, no.4 (2015), pp.566-568.

 

"[Disease and Crime] is a unique and ambitious collection that fills many gaps and bridges many divides. It is global in scope, and manages to match the individual chapters' themes of global connection by studying areas with a broad global and temporal scope, yet making coherent connections between all of them. The individual chapters are well written, the volume well-constructed, and it is deserving of a place in the library of any reader interested in the interplay of disease and crime in historical and contemporary thought,"

 

- Social History of Medicine, vol.29, no.3 (2016), pp.657-659.

Imperial Contagions: Medicine, Hygiene, and Cultures of Planning in Asia
[co-editor with David M. Pomfret]

"Imperial Contagions takes us a step further toward more interactive, and less bounded, histories of colonial medicine in Asia. It draws attention to the pathologizing of colonial space, the heterogeneity of medical practice, and the fragmentary and partial authority of imperial public health. It leads us to consider again the late-colonial obsession with improvement and benevolence, and the relations of this self-serving and often delusory project to later national and international enthusiasm for development. An important collection…"

 

- Warwick Anderson, Journal of Asian Studies, vol.73, no.1 (2014), pp.202-204.

Imperial Contagions: Medicine, Hygiene, and Cultures of Planning in Asia

 

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Teaching and Courses Taught

 

Robert received the Outstanding Teaching Award for 2012 in recognition of his contribution to teaching and learning in the University.

 

  • HIST1017 War and Medicine in Europe, 1800-1950

  • HIST2111 Technologies of Empire: Science, Medicine and Colonialism

  • HIST2112 Pandemic! Contagious Histories

  • HIST2137 Humanity in Crisis: Humanitarianism in the Modern World

  • HIST2138 Pandemic! Contagious Histories

  • CCHU9002 Battles for Bodies: The Birth of Surveillance Society Link

  • CCGL9003 Contagions: Global Histories of Disease Link

 

Students should consult Robert Peckham's course site for further information on courses they are taking or are interested in taking.

 

 

 

Research Postgraduate Supervisions

 

Robert welcomes enquiries from prospective MPhil and PhD students with interests that coincide with his own research, including aspects of: imperial and colonial history; the history of science, technology, medicine, and health; biopolitics, security, and the modern state.

 

  • Angharad FLETCHER, 'Sisters Behind the Wire: Australian Military Nursing during World War II' (MPhil) (2010-2012)
  • Angharad FLETCHER, 'Imperial Sisters: Disease, Conflict, and Nursing in the British Empire, 1880-1914' (co-supervised by Professor Anne Marie Rafferty, King's College London) (PhD) (2012-)
  • Maurits MEERWIJK, 'History of Dengue in Asia,' (PhD) (2013-)
  • Mark CLIFFORD, 'Let There Be Light: Electricity and Colonial Power in the Making of Modern Hong Kong' (PhD) (2014-)
  • Georges PAPAVASILIOU, 'Seismic Politics: China and the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake' (MPhil) (2014-2016)
Latest Publication
Epidemics in Modern AsiaBook
Epidemics in Modern Asia


Cambridge University Press


Publication Date:
04.2016