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Susie Kilshaw


Wenner Gren Hunt Postdoctoral Fellow 2008

ESRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow
University College London, UK 2005

PhD Soocial Anthropology,
University College London, UK 2005

MSc Medical Anthropology
University College London, UK 1998

General Interests:

  • Medical Anthropology
  • Qatar and the Middle East
  • Emergent illness
  • Pregnancy and loss
  • Genetics and new medical technologies

My work focuses on new illnesses, post-combat illnesses, health anxieties, and the impact of new medical technologies. The thread running through my research is the impact of culture on illness beliefs and experiences, particularly in the UK and also in the Middle East.

My PhD examined the emergence of a new and contested illness in the UK: Gulf War Syndrome (GWS). I explored the way the illness was influenced by the culture in which it developed. Gender is a particular interest of mine, and my book Impotent Warriors: Gulf War Syndrome, Vulnerability and Masculinity (Oxford: Berghahn, 2009) explored the way GWS is manifests itself as the experience of lost masculinity amongst sufferers.

This project led to my interest in the way in which some health anxieties or illnesses become the focus of public concern, while others are ignored. Since 2011 my research focus has developed to include the Middle East, where I have two separate, but linked projects in Qatar. My research explores issues around risk (including genetic risk), marriage practices, gender, reproduction and reproductive disruption. The first project explores the negotiation of genetic risk and the social impact of genetic discourse Qatar. Genetic disorders are particularly significant in the Gulf Region and the Middle East because of marriage among close relatives, which is a risk factor for genetic disorders. The other project focuses on pregnancy and loss and involves fieldwork in Qatar and the UK. This project aims to tease out the impact of culture on the experience of miscarriage. Funded by the Qatar National Research Fund, both projects contribute to a more general ethnographic picture of Qatari social life.


Ethics in studying contested illness. In McClancy, J. (ed). Ethics in the Field. (Oxford: Berghahn, 2013)

Toxic soldiers: Chemicals and the bodies of soldiers. In Fleming, J. and A. Johnhson (eds). Toxic Airs: Chemical and Environmental Histories of the Atmosphere. (Pittsburg: University of Pittsburg Press, 2014)

Paternity Poisoned: The impact of war syndromes on fatherhood. Inhorn, M. and W. Chavkin (eds.) Globalized Fatherhood: Emergent Forms and Possibilities in the New Millennium. (Oxford: Berghahn, forthcoming October 2014)

Impotent Warriors: Gulf War Syndrome, Vulnerability and Masculinity (Oxford: Berghahn 2009).

Obligations to Veteran Informants: Contentious Research and Stakeholder Engagement. Anthropology News 50(5) (2009): 28-9.

Gulf War Syndrome: A reaction to psychiatry’s invasion of the military? Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 32(2) (2008).

Toxic emissions: The role of semen in Gulf War Syndrome illness narratives. Anthropology and Medicine 14(3) (2007): 251-258

Is GWS about more than the Gulf War? An anthropological approach to the illness” In Lee, H. and Jones, E. (eds). War and Health: Lessons from the Gulf War. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons (2007).

On being a Gulf veteran: an anthropological perspective. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B. 361 (1468) (2006): 697-706.

Friendly Fire: The Construction of Gulf War Syndrome Narratives. Anthropology and Medicine 11 (2) (2004): 149-160.

Gulf War Syndrome. Psychiatry 3 (8), (2004): 17-20.

Between Worlds: Health Action Zone Mediation Project Final Report. London: HAZmp (2002).

Teen-aged mothers in contemporary Britain. Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. 43 (2002): 727-742.



“Medical dialogues are rarely solely about medical matters but serve as a proxy for feelings about the self and the way that an individual relates to others. Indeed, the inclusion of transcripts of interviews and discussions is of particular value…a brave book that challenges popular assumptions about Gulf War syndrome; her analysis of the long-term effects of military service will serve as an important record not only for those with an interest in the armed forces, but also for researchers in the field of illness perception.”  ·  The British Journal of Psychiatry

“This is an important anthropological study, which I believe is set to become a classic. The theoretical perspectives are clearly presented and applied to compelling ethnographic material. The publication of this manuscript will make it accessible to both undergraduate and graduate students of anthropology, as well as students of political science, sociology and military studies.”  ·  Vieda Skultans

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