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Dr Sarah Howard

  • Overview



    I joined Birkbeck in January 2022, as part of the Wellcome-funded Connecting Three Worlds (C3W) project. In 2022-3, I was a Birkbeck/ Wellcome Trust Early Career Fellow in the School of Historical Studies. 

    I completed my PhD in anthropology at Goldsmiths in 2020 and was an ESRC postdoctoral fellow in the Department of African Studies and Anthropology at the University of Birmingham in 2020-22. I have been affiliated with the Institute of Ethiopian Studies at Addis Ababa University in 2023-4, 2018-20 and 2014-5, and was a Visiting Scholar in the Department of Anthropology, University of Stockholm in 2017. 

    For my current list of publications, please see: 


    • PhD, Anthropology, Goldsmiths College, University of London, 2020
    • MA, Anthropology of Rights and Development, Goldsmiths College, University of London, 2012

    Web profiles

    Administrative responsibilities

    • Steering Group, Centre for Medical and Health Humanities

    Honours and awards

    • ISSF Fellowship, Wellcome Trust/ Birkbeck, March 2022
    • Postdoctoral Fellowship, University of Birmingham, ESRC, March 2020
    • Christine Wilson Award, Society for the Anthropology of Food and Nutrition, March 2017
    • ESRC Studentship, 1+3, London Social Science Doctoral Training Centre, March 2014


  • Research


    Research interests

    • socialist health
    • childcare
    • Ethiopia
    • anthropology of the state
    • labour and precarity

    Research overview

    My contribution to the Connecting Three Worlds project explores the contours, political and intellectual origins, and collaborative co-production of Derg-era public health at different scales, and traces its contemporary legacies in the practice and politics of global health in Ethiopia. As elsewhere, socialist-era health and medicine in Ethiopia was generally characterised by the linking of public health with wider revolutionary objectives, as well as by the primacy of preventative interventions. With an emphasis on maternal and child health, my research contributes to three interlinked areas of interest: community health workers and gendered forms of care; socialist internationalism and knowledge transfer; and negotiating post-socialist legacies in public health. 

    A Wellcome/ Birkbeck ISSF Fellowship in 2022-23 allowed me to initiate a related project, on the history of institutional childcare in Ethiopia, drawing on archival research in the UK and Ethiopia into cooperative kindergartens in the socialist era. I am interested in developing this research into a larger historical and ethnographic project on the changing face of early years childcare in urban Africa.  

    My doctoral research - the basis of a monograph currently under preparation for the International African Library, Cambridge University Press - explored the functioning of the Ethiopian state through the lives of rural public servants in a peripheral area of Amhara Region. Based on long-term ethnographic fieldwork, the thesis provides an account of the lowest level of the state through close attention to the social worlds and professional responsibilities of teachers, extension workers and administrators. I show the physical, affective, emotional and relational consequences of state work on state employees themselves, as well as looking at the role played by substances and materials in the continual construction of the state through everyday practices and performances. 

    Research Centres and Institutes

  • Supervision and teaching

    Supervision and teaching


    Teaching, supervision and assessment on MA Medical Humanities and other postgraduate courses.