UCL Anthropology

Prof Sahra Gibbon

Prof Sahra Gibbon

Professor of Medical Anthropology

Dept of Anthropology

Faculty of S&HS

Joined UCL
1st Feb 2008

Research summary

After completing my doctoral research in 2003, examining the social and cultural context of breast cancer genetics in the UK and the dynamics between gendered cultures of activism and the translation of knowledge and technologies associated with the so called 'BRCA' genes, I subsequently examined the changing relationship between publics, science and medicine in an era of (post)genomic medicine in Cuba and Brazil. This research has focused on health inequalities, the politics of personalised medicine, genetic ancestry, identity and risk and also more recently rare genetic disease and judicial claims to care and treatment.

I continue to develop collaborative research with colleagues in Brazil and Mexico in various ways including engaging with diverse traditions of medical anthropology that resulted in a recent edited collection with UCL Press 'Critical Medical Anthropology. Perspectives in/from Latin America'. This collection forms part of the open access UCL Press book series Embodying Inequalities. Perspectives from Medical Anthropology which I co-edit with Jennie Gamlin that charts the changing dynamics of health, medicine and well being in global contexts and how inequalities pervade health and bodies. Currently I am developing research with colleagues in Latin America and UCL as part of a Wellcome Trust funded project the 'Embodied Inequalities of the Anthropocene' to further examine how health inequalities shape and are shaped by the health effects of environmental change.

I have long standing  interests in inter-disciplinary ways of working both developing and reflecting on the opportunities and challenges this way of carrying out research in and on the life sciences poses for social and natural scientists. I am committed to develop these initiatives to explore and expand the scope of cross-disciplinary research and teaching, particularly in relation to novel articulations of the 'biosocial' in addressing and intervening on health inequalities. I currently convene the Biosocial Birth Cohort Research (BBCR) network that brings together over 40 cross-disciplinary researchers working with longitudinal birth cohorts. I am also PI on a Wellcome Trust 4 year Investigator Award 'The Biosocial Lives of Birth Cohorts' that ethnographically examines birth cohorts as sites of knowledge, social practice and participation in the UK, Portugal, Brazil and the Netherlands. I am also convenor of the MSc in Biosocial Medical Anthropology at UCL.

Teaching summary

My main areas of teaching are in Medical Anthropology at UCL at both undergraduate and masters level. I am the convenor of and also teach on the MSc in Biosocial Medical Anthropology and also the MSc in Medical Anthropology. I currently convene and co-teach with colleagues in Anthropology and Nutrition a new undergraduate and graduate option modules on Nutrition Health and Culture (ANTH0220) and also a masters module on Health, Environment and Biosocial Anthropology (ANTH0100)

Current PhD Students: 

Jarrard O'Brian: Embodiment and Trauma among the Maori 

Delia Hollowell: Constructions of Health and Corporative Health Interventions in Communities Live with Industry in Brazil. 

Emilie Glazer: Water, Environmental Justice and Resilience in Jerusalem

Rebecca Williams: The Limits of Care. Border Implementation at the end of life

Clara Therond: Personalised molecular therapeutics in ovarian and colorectal cancer clinics in the UK

Maria Larrain: Tongue tie cutting and the medicalisation of breast feeding in the UK

Ros Greiner: Understanding socially located experiences and interpretations of the Zika epidemic in Colombia 

Catherine Borra: Women in Pain: Sex, gender and the emergence of chronic pain at menopause. A biosocial mixed-methods investigation

Rosie Mathers: Is there a Physiological Glass Ceiling? A biosocial exploration of women, work and health.

Completed PhD Students

Lucy Irvine: Civil Society Participation and Sexual Health Policy in Brazil (2020)

Rebecca Irons: Family Planning Programmes and Indigenous subjectivities in Peru (2019)

Maria Ignacia Arteaga Perez: Colorectal Cancer and Care in the UK (2018)

Jesse Bia: Regenerative Medicine in Japan (2018)

Katrina Holland: Medical Detection Dogs (2018)

Kelly Fagan Robinson: Performance and the Politics of Deafness (2017)

Beatriz Aragon: Roma Gypsies and Healthcare in Madrid (2017)

Caitlin O' Grady: HIV/Aids in India (2017)

Alison Macdonald: Breast Cancer Survivorship and Activism in India (2012)


University College London
Doctorate, Doctor of Philosophy | 2003
University College London
Other higher degree, Master of Science | 1998
University of Edinburgh
Other higher degree, Master of Arts | 1996


I gained my PhD in Anthropology from UCL in 2003 after completing an MSc in Medical Anthropology also at UCL. My doctoral research was based in the UK examining the social and cultural context of 'breast cancer genetics' looking at the interface between gendered cultures of breast cancer activism and the translation of knowledge and technologies associated with two inherited susceptibility genes BRCA1/2. 

I subsequently undertook postdoctoral research in the UK, Cuba and Brazil examining the changing dynamics between different publics, science and knowledge in an era of so called 'post-genomic' medicine, including the relationship between public health and the promise of personalised medicine, health inequalities  and how (in Brazil) questions of genetic ancestry, identity and risk are co-configured. This research was linked to a Wellcome Trust University Award that subsequently led in 2012 to becoming a lecturer in the Medical Anthropology section of the Anthropology Department at UCL