History at Leicester

Healthy Citizens? Migrant Identity and Constructions of Health in Post War Australia

Wellcome Trust Research Fellowship in Medical Humanities

October 2014 – June 2018

Dr Eureka Henrich

Psychological and epidemiological frames dominate studies of migrant health in Australia, resulting in understandings of migrants as either possessing a physical health advantage or a propensity to mental health disorders. However, this project sees Australia's unique post-war migration revolution, in which almost 3 million British and European people relocated to the other side of the world, as an opportunity to examine how constructions of health, migrant identity and national identity are intricately linked.

It will investigate these connections through an analysis of migrants' life writings, held in Australian libraries, museums and community archives, as well as through extant oral history interviews and material culture. To contextualise these experiences, the project will trace medical professionals' perspectives on migrants' psychological and bodily health between 1945 and 1970; evaluate how constructions of Australia as a 'healthy haven' were harnessed by government bodies to attract new arrivals; and assess how the doctrine of assimilation pervaded the delivery of health care and advice to migrants.

By questioning the links between migrant health, assimilation and identity, the project aims to enhance understandings of post-war Australia and to contribute to the international study of the links between health and migration.

This project is funded by the Wellcome Trust through a Research Fellowship in Medical Humanities. It will be complemented by a public engagement programme, ‘Migrant Health and Identity Past and Present’, funded by a Wellcome Trust Provision for Public Engagement.

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