Jospeh Jakarasi

Joseph Jakarasi

Joseph Jakarasi is a sociocultural historian whose research focuses on the dynamics of health, politics, and social inequality in twentieth century rural Zimbabwe. Building on conceptual approaches from medical anthropology, the anthropology of family and social change, political economy, and Global Health, his current research program focuses on the role of family and community in providing health services to the sick.

His book, which builds on his dissertation, examines non-therapeutic caregiving, an aspect of African healing which has received little scholarly attention. Many studies of African health have assumed that the establishment of Western hospitals in Africa represented the introduction of superior knowledge of disease and handling of the sick.  Consequently, these studies have tended to cast African communities as dependent and passive recipients of hospital services. By contrast, his book argues that when a regional hospital was founded in Northeastern Zimbabwe, the communities that surrounded it regarded themselves to be entering into a relationship of equals.  Indeed, the founding and running of the hospital depended at every stage on the assistance and cooperation of the communities it served. Even though the encounter between biomedicine and African communities took place in the context of life on the margins of colonial rule, armed resistance to colonialism, civil conflict, and the HIV-AIDS pandemic, the people of northern Zimbabwe faced the various challenges of the 20th century with extraordinary social creativity.

By contextualizing the encounter between rural communities and a biomedical institution, his work contributes to the growing field of Global Health Studies and the historical study of southern Africa. Focusing on the various ways in which rural communities used an old and venerable tradition of caregiving to shape the everyday practices of a Catholic hospital during a prolonged war and the HIV-AIDS pandemic, the book demonstrates the indispensability of local histories and cultures for understanding health interventions, even when powerful institutions drive them. In this way, the book tells a story of health and biomedical intervention in rural Southern Africa that unfolded beyond the bounds of government officials, armed forces, health professionals, and powerful institutions.


J Jakarasi and M Nyakudya "Sheriff in the “Club of Dictators”? Robert Mugabe’s Role in the Politics of Southern Africa, 1976-2013” in Sabelo Gatsheni-Ndlovu (eds.) Mugabeism, Palgrave Macmillan, New York, 2015.

Awards and fellowships      

Ballard and Seashore Dissertation Fellowship, 2019
Laurence Lafore Fellowship – Department of History, University of Iowa, 2017
William O. Aydelotte Dissertation Fellowship, 2017
Graduate Student Senate Supplemental Travel Award for Research, 2017
Graduate College Summer Fellowship, 2017
Graduate College T. Anne Cleary International Dissertation Research Fellowship, 2017
Graduate College Post-Comprehensive Research Award, 2017
Graduate and Professional Student Government College Grant, 2017
Department of History Graduate Fellowship, 2017

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