Richard C. Keller is associate professor in the Department of Medical History and Bioethics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he teaches courses in the history of medicine and international health. He also holds appointments in the African Studies Program, the Program in Science and Technology Studies, and the Population Health Program. He earned his Ph.D. in History at Rutgers University, and came to Madison from a Mellon postdoctoral fellowship at Washington University in St. Louis. He has also held two residential fellowships at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, the first funded by a Fulbright award in 1998-1999, and the second by a Bourse pour l’accueil des chercheurs étrangers de la Ville de Paris in 2007.
Prof. Keller’s work focuses on the historical and contemporary social dimensions of international health. His first book, Colonial Madness: Psychiatry in French North Africa (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), is a study of cross-cultural psychiatry in the twentieth century that examines behavioral science, mental health, and ideas about race in the contexts of colonialism and immigration in France. This book, based on Dr. Keller’s prize-winning dissertation, was funded by the American Historical Association, the American Institute for Maghrib Studies, and the Society for French Historical Studies. His other articles on this subject have appeared in the Journal of Social History, the Bulletin of the History of Medicine, and in two edited volumes: Psychiatry and Empire, ed. by Sloan Mahone and Megan Vaughn (Palgrave, 2007) and L’histoire et l’immigration: La question coloniale, ed. by Nancy Green and Marie Poinsot (Paris: La documentation française, 2008).
He is now at work on two new research themes. The first is a study of the social determinants of vulnerability in the European heat wave of 2003, focusing on Paris and its suburbs, which has been supported by the City of Paris and the National Science Foundation. Keller has recently completed a related project on the social dimensions of mortality management in industrial societies with a research team based in Paris at the Institut de Recherche Interdisciplinaire sur les Enjeux Sociaux, which will appear in 2010 as Des morts inaperçues : l’enregistrement des surmortalités brutales en Angleterre, aux Etats-Unis et en France, (with Carine Vassy and Robert Dingwall; Rennes: Editions de l’Ecole Nationale de Santé Publiques. His current project builds on this research, and entails a close examination of the lives of a handful of the 2003 heat wave’s victims. The book seeks to integrate contemporary understandings of disaster with research on social citizenship and the politics of aging in the contemporary urban west.
Keller’s second current project examines the institutional and ideological links between colonial medicine and the globalization of public health. A synthetic history, this project opens a window on the transformations and consistencies in ideas and practices surrounding disease surveillance, public health policy, and health crisis management in the developing world from the early twentieth century to the present. It draws on examples from the French and British empires, as well as the history of the World Health Organization and non-governmental organizations and foundations such as Médecins sans Frontières and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. An early draft of his research was published as “Geographies of Power, Legacies of Mistrust: Colonial Medicine in the Global Present,” in a special issue of Historical Geography (ed. by Susan Craddock and Jennifer Gunn).