Member Profile

Laura Meek

Assistant Professor, Centre for the Humanities and Medicine, University of Hong Kong

Complementary and Alternative Medicine, and Integrative Medicine (CAM/IM) Special Interest Group, Society for Medical Anthropology, Co-Chair

Contributor, Platypus: The CASTAC Blog

Research Interests

About Laura

I am an Assistant Professor in the Centre for the Humanities and Medicine at the University of Hong Kong. I am a medical anthropologist who researches counterfeit pharmaceuticals, bodily epistemologies, and the politics of healing in East Africa. I received my Ph.D. and M.A. in Anthropology from the University of California, Davis, as well as an M.A. in Women’s Studies from George Washington University and a B.A. in Comparative Human Development from the University of Chicago. My first project, Pharmaceuticals in Divergence: Radical Uncertainty and World-Making Tastes in Tanzania, is based on three years of ethnographic fieldwork in Iringa, Tanzania, and focuses on the proliferation of counterfeits in local biomedical markets, where an estimated 30-60% of drugs are thought to be fake. I approach this global health challenge through the lens of feminist and postcolonial science studies, as a way to engage both conditions of radical uncertainty and world-making innovation happening in Africa today. My second project, The Grammar of Leprosy: Temporal Politics & An Impossible Subject, develops a line of inquiry which was prompted by my discovery that the antibiotic cure for leprosy was readily available, and yet inaccessible, for my interlocuters in Tanzania in need of treatment. I am currently developing a multi-sited and interdisciplinary inquiry into the temporal politics of leprosy elimination campaigns across historical archives, scientific knowledge production, and global health initiatives. Additional areas of my scholarship include the medicinal significance of sensory qualities like taste, histories of medicine and healing across the Indian Ocean world, practices of dreaming as medical interventions in Tanzania, and more recently, intersections of the pro-democracy movement and Covid-19 outbreak in Hong Kong.





Reimagining Indian Ocean Worlds

Smriti Srinivas, Bettina Ng'weno, Neelima Jeychandran | Routledge (2020) | ISBN: 9780367344535

Cover -- Half Title -- Series Page -- Title Page -- Copyright Page -- Table of Contents -- List of figures -- List of maps -- List of contributors -- Introduction: many worlds, many oceans -- Crafting arrival -- Keywords for Indian Ocean worlds -- Thinking as process -- Acknowledgments -- Notes -- References -- Part I: Proximity and distance -- Chapter 1: The ends of the Indian Ocean: notes on boundaries and affinities across time -- Shifting boundaries of relation -- Shifting imaginations of space -- Conclusion -- References -- Chapter 2: Indian Ocean ontology: Nyerere, memory, place -- The place of memory, memory as place -- Sensory histories -- Saba Saba -- Cochin -- Tanzanianness -- Arusha Declaration and socialist belonging -- Inauthentic Asians -- Disinterred -- References -- Chapter 3: The littoral, the container, and the interface: situating the dry port as an Indian Ocean imaginary -- Introduction: between limits and possibilities -- Figuring the littoral: land, ocean, port, city -- The container -- The dry port -- Conclusion: contemporary Indian Ocean worlds -- Notes -- References -- Chapter 4: Seasons of sail: the monsoon, kinship, and labor in the dhow trade -- Flying in the face of the wind -- Monsoons at sail -- From aakhar to mausam: a dual morphology, interrupted? -- Seasons of work, cycles of debt: labor and kinship for the khalaasi -- A clash of calendars: regulating the weather and mobility -- From sea to shore: a monsoonal relationality -- Notes -- References -- Part II: Landscapes, oceanscapes, and practices -- Chapter 5: Elsewheres in the Indian Ocean: spatio-temporal encounters and imaginaries beyond the sea -- Dreams of mobility -- Elsewheres -- Mountains, oceans, and estranged stones -- Conclusion -- Acknowledgments -- References -- Chapter 6: Dicey waterways: evolving networks and contested spatialities in Goa.


Adverse Events: Race, Inequality, and the Testing of New Pharmaceuticals. Jill A. Fisher, New York: NYU Press, 2020, 336 pp.

Laura A. Meek (2021) | Medical Anthropology Quarterly 35(2) |

Drugs and Uncertainty in Tanzania

Laura Meek (2019) | Anthropology News 59(6) |

Operationalizing a One Health approach to global health challenges

Patricia A. Conrad, Laura A. Meek, Joe Dumit (2013) | Comparative Immunology, Microbiology and Infectious Diseases 36(3): 211-216 |

Increasing inequality is already making shortages worse

Thomas H. Meek, Laura A. Meek (2009) | Nature 459(7243): 31-31 |

() | Publication information unavailable from CrossRef for this DOI. |

Contributions to Platypus: The CASTAC Blog

View all of Laura's posts on Platypus: The CASTAC Blog.

Fugitive Science: Beer Brewing & Experiments with Pharmaceuticals in Tanzania

When I originally arrived to start fieldwork in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania, I set out to observe the scientific practices through which counterfeit drugs were identified at the regional hospital.[note id=”1″ type=”mark”] I knew, from previous fieldwork, that the hospital had a mini-lab for conducting a Thin-Layer Chromatographic Test. Two years passed before I was finally able to observe this test; one of the reasons was that the hospital was out of the iodine detection reagent needed to carry it out. During the ensuing years, I came to learn that science was happening elsewhere; not always in the laboratory or hospital, but—perhaps even more frequently—in the home, marketplace, and workshop.[note id=”2″ type=”mark”]