Roberta Bivins: «Silenced and (sur)Veiled: Inscribing Identity on the Female Migrant Body»

Creaking beneath their own bureaucratic weight and suspected of racial bias, the British ministries charged with managing migration in the 1980s were eager for a miracle. In particular, they sought to restrict the migration of Asian women and children to join a sponsoring family member settled in the United Kingdom. Yet the wives, financees and children of men settled in Britain before 1973 were legally entitled to come, and could not be excluded even on medical grounds. This presentation will explore the ways in which the British state sought to turn female and child bodies into identity 'documents' through blood and 'virginity' testing, but especially through DNA 'fingerprinting'. Roberta Bivins will set this new molecularization of immigration management in its imperial context, and explore the unanticipated risks posed by medical certainty at the border.

About the speaker

Roberta Bivins is Professor of the History of Medicine in the Department of History at the University of Warwick, and Director of Warwick's Centre for the History of Medicine. Her work has focused on Britain as a node in extensive global networks of migration and exchange from the late seventeenth century until the present day. Bivins’ first two books examined the cross-cultural transmission of medical expertise, particularly in relation to global and alternative medicine (Acupuncture, Expertise and Cross-Cultural Medicine, 2000 and Alternative Medicine? A History, 2007). Since 2004, funded by the Wellcome Trust, she has studied the impacts of immigration and ethnicity on post-war British health, medical research and practice. This research has formed the basis of a monograph (Contagious Communities: Medicine, Migration and the NHS in Post War Britain, 2015) and a range of scholarly articles.


25. April 2024, 12.30 – 13.45


Geneva Graduate Institute, Room S7, Maison de la paix, Chemin Eugène-Rigot 2, 1211 Geneva Online


Gender Centre Events Spring 2024
26. März 2024 – 06. Juni 2024 Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies (Schweiz)