Laura Frances Goffman

Assistant Professor of Health Studies of the Middle East and North Africa

Laura Frances Goffman is a historian of health in the modern Middle East. Her research focuses on the intersections of public health, empire, state building, and social change in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Peninsula. She is committed to bringing the Gulf region into discussions of world history, especially narratives of how migration, gender, citizenship, and state formation intersect with the movement of disease.

Goffman is currently working on a book manuscript provisionally titled Disorder and Diagnosis: Frontiers of Health in the Modern Gulf and Arabia. Tracing the development of public health programs after steamships connected Bombay and Karachi with Gulf ports in 1862 through the acceleration of the oil industry after World War Two, this manuscript reconstructs early state health projects such as quarantines, hospitals, anti-malaria measures, and the production of gendered medical labor. It demonstrates how the Gulf and its Arabian hinterland served as an object of development, a space of scientific translation, and a buffer zone between “diseased” India and white Europe. Among the region’s mobile, multi-ethnic, and multi-confessional residents, ideologies and materialities of health provoked new political imaginaries and transformed the relationship between elites and non-elites decades before the national development period of the mid-twentieth century.

Goffman was awarded the 2019 Association for Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies Dissertation Award. She holds a Ph.D. from Georgetown University and was a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the project “The Lifetimes of Epidemics in Europe and the Middle East” at the University of Oslo in 2019-2020.  

At the University of Arizona, Goffman teaches courses on the history of the Modern Middle East; on the history of health, medicine, and disease in the Middle East; and on the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf from the nineteenth century to the present.


Selected Publications:

“Waiting for AIDS in Kuwait,” in “The AIDS Crisis is Not Over,” eds. Emily K. Hobson and Dan Royles, special issue, Radical History Review 140 (forthcoming, May 2021).

Malaria and Empire in Bahrain, 1931-1947,” Gulf Studies Center Monographic Series No. 7 (March 2020).

“Sa`id Ahmad Al-Jinahi’s I was in Dhufar: Gendered Militarization and Modern Space in Revolutionary Oman,” Women’s History Review 27, no. 5 (2018).