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Wolfson Institute of Population Health

Dr Laura Burke, PhD



Centre: Centre for Public Health & Policy



I am a medical anthropologist with expertise in conflict, reproduction, and environment and Southeast Asia. My PhD research investigated how life is reproduced after conflict and crises. Funded by the ESRC I conducted long term ethnographic in Timor-Leste with health professionals and community members in a central highland area. My thesis titled ‘Reproducing Life After Conflict’ examined reproductive justice, environment, and population debates as well as drawing on conflict and post-conflict development studies.

I’m currently interested in further exploring the relevance of environmental and reproductive justice frameworks in Southeast Asia, as well as the concept of ‘population’ and its use and inference within biomedicine, human rights and global health and development.

At the Wolfson Institute of Population Health, I lecture on the MSc in Global Public Health, leading the Health Inequalities and the State of Global Health module. I also supervise MSc dissertations on topics related to my expertise and interests. In addition to this role, I teach Medical Anthropology at the University of Plymouth and have held lecturing positions at the University of Kent in the School of Anthropology and Conservation.

I currently conduct research through the Centre of Reproduction, Technologies and Health (CORTH) at the University of Sussex. Here I am post-doctoral researcher on the project ‘Empowering Communities through Partnerships in Public Health’ in Nepal and the Philippines, with Santo Tomas University, Manila and Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu. This project uses Participatory Action Research and Ethnography to explore building respectful partnerships between communities and universities and incorporate indigenous knowledge in public health curriculums. It explores how health education can be decolonised/indigenised. Health inequalities are a central theme running through my work. I have previously worked as an ethnographic researcher on ‘Homelessness in the Countryside: A hidden Crisis’, investigating the little researched issue of homelessness in rural areas of England.


Research Interests:

  • Medical Anthropology
  • Global Health
  • Conflict and Violence
  • Reproductive Health, Rights and Justice
  • Population
  • Environment and Multispecies Relations


Featured Publications

Burke, L. (2022) ‘Making Kin and Population: Counting Life in the Wake of Abandonment in Timor-Leste’, The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology, 23(4–5), pp. 311–329. Available at:

Burke, L. (2020) ‘Planning Reproduction: Preparing for Life and the Future in Maubisse’, in S. Farram et al. (eds) Understanding Timor-Leste. 2019th edn. Swinburne Press (Timor-Leste Studies Association Conference Proceedings), pp. 243–248. Available at:

Burke, L. (2021) ‘A Hospital Without People in a Timor-Leste Community’, Somatosphere. Edited by F. Chabrol and J. Kehr, The Hospital Multiple. Available at:

Burke, L. (no date) PhD student Laura Burke on the function of community radio in Timor-Leste, School of Anthropology and Conservation - University of Kent. Available at:

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