Amelia Bonea

Amelia Bonea

Dr

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Biography

My interest in science goes back to the beginning of secondary school, when I used to participate in mathematics competitions in my home country, Romania, and was set on becoming a mathematician. My interest in history is slightly more recent and was nurtured by a serendipitous encounter with an inspirational teacher in my third year of high school: she convinced me that I was as good a historian as I was a mathematician. Eventually, I ended up combining science and history for work, firmly believing that I got the best of both worlds! My high-school history teacher still cheers me on, all these years later.

I work primarily at the intersections of science, technology and medicine, which I study through a combination of global and micro-history approaches. Most of my work has focused on colonial South Asia, the British Empire and Victorian Britain, but I also have a secondary research interest in the modern history of Japan. After completing my undergraduate and graduate education at the Universities of Tokyo (BA and MA) and Heidelberg (PhD), I spent several years working as a researcher at the Universities of Oxford and Heidelberg. My research has been funded by the Wellcome Trust, the European Research Council, the German Research Foundation (DFG) and, more recently, CHANSE, Collaboration of Humanities and Social Sciences in Europe. I joined CHSTM in January 2023 as Lecturer in the Global History of Science, Technology and Medicine, following, I hope, in the footsteps of some of the groundbreaking Indian and Japanese scientists whose lives and research activities at Manchester in the early 20th century I have been studying. 

 

Teaching

I currently co-teach the unit on Decolonising the History of Science as part of the MSc History of Science, Technology and Medicine. I am also devising new courses on the global history of palaeosciences and the history of science communication.

I am happy to hear from students with an interest in the history of science, technology and medicine in South and East Asia. I am particularly interested in supervising dissertations on the history of telecommunications, exploring, for example, their intersections with public health, medical practice, science communication or science journalism; the history of women in science, technology and medicine; and the history of palaeosciences, natural history heritage and debates around the decolonization of museums.

Research interests

I have worked on several projects to date, exploring primarily two topics: the global entanglements of palaeoscience in colonial and postcolonial South Asia and the incorporation of communication technologies (telegraphs, telephones, mobile phones) into journalism, medicine and public health in the 19th-21st centuries.

 

Media, Epidemics and Technologies of Science Communication

Between November 2022-January 2023, I acted as Project Leader for 'Media and Epidemics: Technologies of Science Communication and Public Health in the 20th and 21st Centuries,' a three-year project funded by CHANSE, Collaboration in the Humanities and Social Sciences in Europe. In its initial formation, the project brought together humanities researchers and art practitioners from Germany (University of Heidelberg), Poland (Polish Academy of Sciences), Romania (University of Bucharest) and the UK (University of Birmingham) to study the relationship between technologies of communication and the management of epidemic outbreaks in India, Poland, Romania and the UK since the beginning of the 20th century. We began from the premise that a long-term, trans-regional and trans-disciplinary perspective on the technological aspects of epidemic management can help us understand how media technologies shape the making and communication of knowledge about public health and the extent to which electronic dematerialization has been relevant to managing epidemics outbreaks in the first place. Our work focuses on five groups of social actors, some of whom have been central to epidemic responses, while others have found themselves at their periphery: governments, healthcare professionals and health activists, media institutions and practitioners, persons with disabilities and minorities such as the Roma in Romania and migrants of South Asian origin in the UK. I have since stepped down as PL of this project due to a change in institutional affiliation, but I continue to be associated with its research and public outreach activities. If you would like to learn more about our work, please visit our website

 

History of Palaeoscience in Colonial and Postcolonial South Asia

I have recently completed a project titled 'Archives of the Earth: Fossils, Science and Historical Imaginaries in Twentieth-Century India' (2020-2022). This has been funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and has benefited from the collaboration of palaeontologists Prof. Ashok Sahni (Panjab) and Dr. Advait M. Jukar (Arizona). Seeking to overcome the traditional Britain-India dichotomy in the history of science in South Asia, I documented the institutionalization of palaeontology and palaeobotany in twentieth-century India, tracing connections to Germany, the US, Switzerland and Japan. I investigated in particular the contexts that framed efforts to collect, exchange, study and preserve fossils from the Indian subcontinent, the wide range of actors, material objects and ideas involved therein, and the ways in which these fossil 'archives' were used to generate knowledge about the deep past of the Earth and its relation with the human past. The project has also furthered our knowledge of the history of women in science, natural resources exploitation and climate change research. I am currently in the process of writing a monograph based on this research.

 

Telecommunication Technologies, Medicine and Public Health

As a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Oxford, I was involved in two projects: the Wellcome Trust-funded 'The Challenge of Urbanisation: Health and the Global City,' led by Prof. Mark Harrison, and the ERC-funded 'Diseases of Modern Life,' led by Prof. Sally Shuttleworth. My work documented how medical practitioners and public health officials used telegraphs and telephones as instruments of communication and diagnosis in Victorian and Edwardian Britain. It also investigated public health anxieties associated with such technologies since the nineteenth century: in Victorian Britain, where public telephones were believed to act as vectors for the transmission of tuberculosis and other infectious diseases, and contemporary India, where mobile phones and telecom towers have generated a spate of concerns about increased risk of cancer, headaches or infertility. These highly publicized health anxieties highlight the complex negotiations which often surround the emergence of new telecommunication technologies and new medical theories, demonstrating how different stakeholders shape notions of public health risks and processes of science communication. The findings were published as part of a co-authored monograph, Anxious Times: Medicine and Modernity in Nineteenth-Century Britain (Pittsburgh University Press, 2019) and peer-review articles, one of which, '"Contagion by Telephone": Print Media and Knowledge about Infectious Diseases in Britain, 1880-1914,' Technology and Culture, 62, 3 (2021): 1063-1086, was awarded the inaugural 2022 SHOT Mercurians Prize in the History of Communication Technologies. 

 

Telegraphy and Journalism in Colonial South Asia

My first monograph, The News of Empire: Telegraphy, Journalism, and the Politics of News Reporting in Colonial India, c.1830-1900 (Oxford University Press, 2016), was based on my doctoral research at the University of Heidelberg. It combined global and micro-history approaches with insights from the history of technology and media studies to develop an interdisciplinary framework for understanding how electric telegraphy was incorporated into journalism in 19th-century South Asia. Drawing on English, Hindi and Japanese-language sources, it challenged conventional narratives of media revolutions, showing instead that the use of telegraphy was gradual, piecemeal and shaped by imperial rivalries, capitalist enterprise and competing 'visions of the press.' Apart from documenting the interconnected development of imperialism, markets and media, this study also spoke to contemporary concerns about the impact of information technologies on journalism and the ways in which they facilitate monopolistic concentrations of power. The monograph was awarded the 2017 Eugenia M. Palmegiano Prize for the best book on the history of journalism in any area of the world by the American Historical Association.

 

 

 

 

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 4 - Quality Education
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action

Education/Academic qualification

Doctor of Philosophy, Ruprecht-Karls Universitat Heidelberg - University of Heidelberg

Master of Arts, University of Tokyo

Bachelor of Arts, University of Tokyo

Areas of expertise

  • D204 Modern History
  • History of Science, Technology and Medicine
  • Media History
  • DS Asia
  • South Asia
  • British Empire
  • Japan

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