Science, Technology and Society Seminar: STS Circle at Harvard


Monday, October 7, 2019, 12:15pm to 2:00pm


CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, Room S050

"Foreign Bodies: On Medicine and Labor in the United States"


Eram Alam, Assistant Professor in History of Medicine, Department of History of Science, Harvard University.


Sam Weiss Evans, Science, Technology & Society Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School.

Co-sponsored by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.


STS Program



Sheila Jasanoff, Faculty Associate. Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School.


Lunch is provided if you RSVP. via our online form before Thursday afternoon, September 26th.


This talk explores the enduring consequences of postcolonial physician migration from Asia to the United States initiated during the Cold War. Lawmakers used the Hart-Celler Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 to recruit Foreign Medical Graduates (FMGs) to provide care for communities experiencing doctor shortages. Conceived as temporary, this arrangement has since become a permanent feature of the US healthcare system with foreign physicians comprising at least a quarter of the physician labor force over the last fifty years. Using bureaucratic procedure and the clinical encounter, I examine the translations necessary to make foreign medical labor compatible with US standards and expectations. Despite attempts at commensurability, the care provided by FMGs was interpreted and received as an imperfect facsimile of their US counterparts. By analyzing the experiences of these skilled immigrants, I explore the shifting and heterogeneous parameters of inclusion available to the migrant who was also an expert. 


Eram Alam specializes in the history of medicine, with a particular emphasis on globalization, migration, and health during the twentieth century. She is currently working on two book projects. The first, The Care of Foreigners: A History of South Asian Physicians in the United States, 1965-2017, explores the enduring consequences of postcolonial physician migration from South Asia to the United States. The second book, a co-edited volume with Dorothy Roberts, is called Ordering the Human: Global Science and Racial Reason. This project brings together a disciplinarily diverse group of researchers from around the world. Collectively, they investigate the malleability and situatedness of race, the work of consolidating racial ways of knowing, and the forces and flows that dictate the movement of racial concepts in scientific knowledge production.

A complete list of STS Circle at Harvard events can be found on the event page.