Spotlight on… Nadine Beckmann

Nadine Beckmann

Position: Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology

Bio: A native German, Nadine completed her undergraduate training and Master’s degree at the University of Muenster in Germany. She received her DPhil in anthropology from the University of Oxford in 2008, based on a dissertation on life with HIV/AIDS in a Muslim society, notions of morality and uncertainty, the management of sexuality, and the newly introduced antiretroviral treatment for AIDS in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Prior to joining the University of Roehampton in 2012, Nadine was a Research Fellow at the University of Bradford, a Lecturer in International Development at the University of Leeds, and a John Fell Research Fellow and Deputy Director of the Fertility and Reproduction Studies Group in the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology at Oxford University.

Research interests: Nadine’s work focuses on the intersections of sexuality, illness, and wellbeing, and the interplay between biomedicine and alternative forms of addressing illness and reproductive health issues, particularly in Muslim communities. She has also worked on the politicisation of AIDS activism, biological citizenship, and medical governance in Tanzania, and is especially interested in the global politics of population and disease control and the interrelationships between large-scale global health interventions and local realities in East Africa.

Most significant work: The framing of HIV/AIDS as a crisis has facilitated the rollout of large-scale intervention programmes that utilise a language of rights and partnership, but focus heavily on individual behaviour and pharmaceutical ‘solutions’ to AIDS.  Analysing how HIV-positive people in Tanzania navigate life with HIV and the complex treatment regimens, Nadine’s research looks beyond biomedical rationality, which places the preservation of individual biological life at the centre of its logic, and analyses people’s constant struggle to negotiate the meaning of ‘responsible behaviour’ in the context of their lived realities. This lens serves to reposition the notion of responsibility within the realm of the social, rather than the individual, posing an important challenge to prevailing approaches to public health interventions, and reveals the rationality behind apparently irrational practices.

Latest project: A growing number of studies highlight disconcerting levels of misdiagnosis in the scale-up of HIV rapid testing programmes. Evaluation studies point to user errors as some of the potential sources of misdiagnosis, but what are the views and experiences of clinicians and primary counsellors who perform rapid HIV testing? Conducted in conjunction with colleagues at Imperial College London, the University of Copenhagen, and the Manicaland Centre for HIV Research and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Nadine is exploring the extent, patterns, possible sources and impact of misclassification errors in routine rapid HIV testing in Zimbabwe.

Teaching: Nadine convenes two undergraduate anthropology modules, ‘Kinship: Comparative and Contemporary Studies’ and our third-year module ‘HIV/AIDS and Global Health’, which explores AIDS as not just a medical condition but a complex biosocial epidemic that requires an ecological approach that focuses on intersections and interdependencies between spheres as diverse as medicine and epidemiology, culture, power, politics and political economy. Local and global responses to HIV/AIDS thus provide an invaluable lens into key topics in social and medical anthropology, from illness and healing, to sexual and reproductive relationships, and the field of global health.

Did you know…?

  • That Nadine has accidentally got somebody cursed (many years ago, and fortunately it didn’t work!)
  • That she loves animals and used to train horses before she came to the UK
  • That she witnessed the 1996 terrorist attack in Cairo and was interviewed for the German evening news about it.


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