Re-considering Lung Disease | WISER DOCTORAL FELLOWSHIP


DOCTORAL FELLOWSHIP in the Medical Humanities

Re-considering lung disease in South Africa :  the politics of data and materiality in a century of mine silicosis.

In the present, and throughout our modern history, lung disease has been one of the key sites of politics in South Africa.  This political importance is reflected in the richness of the science, the archives and the data associated with silicosis in particular.  For over a century the distinctive evidence produced by the gold mines made the South African science of silicosis globally authoritative in occupational health and the legal field of industrial compensation.  The material evidence produced by the mines  -- including the Pathaut database which covers deceased ex-miners back to 1953, the statistics on compensation, diagnosis, and the published research papers by the mine doctors and engineers -- may be the largest and most systematic body of health information on the planet.  It is certainly unique in South Africa as an archive of health surveillance data.  The paradox of the richness of this evidence and the ongoing severity of the disease raises several key questions in contemporary debates about the politics of knowledge across several disciplines.  These include three major problems, amongst many:

1. Does systematic surveillance produce strong health benefits? If so, how and under what institutional and political circumstances?

2. What is the relationship, over the long term, between the epidemiology of tuberculosis and mine-produced silicosis?

3. What can we learn from a descriptive study of dust measurements, devices, and dust engineering about the causes and remedies of lung disease?

WiSER has over the last ten years established itself as the leading South African interdisciplinary research institute in the Humanities and Social Sciences, promoting local and international debate on the complexities of change in South Africa and Africa, understood from comparative and global perspectives.   A strong commitment to doctoral training and supervision is a critical part of WISER’s mission.  Funding from the Andrew W Mellon Foundation has enabled us to continue our long-standing doctoral fellowship programme.  For more information about our staff and research themes see

We call for applications for a 3 year doctoral fellowships to be awarded to an outstanding student in the Humanities, Social or Health Sciences.

This is a full-time programme and is not compatible with other employment. Doctoral fellows will work within the Institute, and be expected to work closely with research staff, and to participate fully in the intellectual life of the Institute.  Fellows will receive funding for three years; the package for the first year will be R160 000. This will cover university fees, research expenses and a living allowance. Some assistance with conference funding may also be available. Fellows will be required to undertake up to 5 hours work a week for WiSER.

To apply, please submit the following:

1. A detailed and up to date CV, which shows clearly your undergraduate and postgraduate degrees and component courses of study.
2.  A recent publication or piece of written work, drawing on your past research.
3.  Names and contact details (including email addresses) of three academic referees.
4.  Certified copies of degrees , diplomas and course records.
5.  A detailed covering letter explaining clearly and carefully your interest in this project.

Incomplete applications will not be considered.

Applications should be sent by email to Ms. Najibha Deshmukh at

Closing date for applications15 March 2017