Dr Noemi Tousignant
Lecturer in Science and Technology Studies
Dept of Science & Technology Studies
Faculty of Maths & Physical Sciences
- Joined UCL
- 1st Aug 2018
I do historical and ethnographic research on public health and science in West Africa, especially Senegal, as well as on global health from West African locations. I am particularly interested in how biomedical knowledge shapes and is shaped by global inequalities in health. My current project, funded by a Wellcome Trust University Award, explores liver cancer in Senegal and The Gambia as a case study of how biomedical progress – in aetiological knowledge and technologies of prevention – has been fuelled by spaces of ongoing exposure and death, and has distributed protection unequally. I examine how chronic infection with hepatitis B came to be identified, in part through West African research, as the major risk factor for liver cancer, and what it meant for vaccines to be deemed “too expensive” for Africans. I also follow the implications of identifying as a liver carcinogen a common contaminant of peanut crops (aflatoxin), which have, historically, played a central role in Senegalese politics, economy and diets.
Issues I examine in this and other projects include postcolonial scientific collaboration; global tissue infrastructures of research; ‘ethical variability’ in medical experimentation; the centrality of cheapness in global health logics and discourse; historical and spatial (re)distributions of immunity; regulatory unprotection; racialized valuations of life and preventable death; access to hepatitis B diagnosis and treatment.
I teach on Science and Technology Studies approaches to global health, health inequalities, racialization and environmental health.
I came to UCL in 2018 with a Wellcome Trust University Award. I previously held postdoctoral positions at the Université de Montréal, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the University of Cambridge. My recent book, Edges of Exposure (Duke 2018), was awarded the Society for Social Studies of Science Ludwik Fleck Award for 2020. I co-edited Traces of the Future (Intellect 2016), on the traces and remains of medical science in Africa, as well as special issues on the materiality, temporalities and ethos of health and scientific work in Science as Culture, Africa and the Canadian Journal of African Studies. Other articles in Social History of Medicine, Comparative Studies in Society and History and Social Studies of Science focus on pharmaceuticals, laboratories and medicinal plant research in Africa.