Laura Frances Goffman

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

Laura Frances Goffman (Ph.D. in History, Georgetown University) 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’s current book project, provisionally titled Disorder and Diagnosis: Frontiers of Health in Modern Arabia and the Persian Gulf, is a social and political history of how medicine, disease, and public health transformed this region from the late nineteenth century until the 1973 oil boom. The narrative begins in 1862, when steamships connected Gulf ports to Bombay and Karachi, and concludes with the acceleration of the oil industry and the formation of public health infrastructures in formally independent states after World War II. Foregrounding the everyday practices of a range of Gulf residents, the book examines an array of medical projects to demonstrate how the Gulf and its Arabian hinterland served as a buffer zone between “diseased” India and white Europe; as a space of scientific translation; and, finally, as an object of development. It emphasizes that the collective actions of people who thus far have been excluded from histories of this region—such as hospital patients, quarantined passengers, and women migrant nurses—resulted in extraordinary interventions that configured both the grandiose contours of governance and the mundane practices of life.

Goffman was awarded the 2021 Harold N. Glassman Distinguished Dissertation Award in the Social Sciences by Georgetown University’s Graduate School of Arts & Sciences and the 2019 Dissertation Award by the Association for Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies (AGAPS). Before coming to the University of Arizona, she was a Post-Doctoral Research Fellow in the project “The Lifetimes of Epidemics in Europe and the Middle East” at the University of Oslo.

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:

“A Jar of Shaykhs’ Teeth: Medicine, Politics, and the Fragments of History in Kuwait,” International Journal of Middle East Studies, forthcoming.

“Waiting for AIDS in Kuwait,” in “The AIDS Crisis is Not Over,” eds. Emily K. Hobson and Dan Royles, Radical History Review 140 (May 2021): 21-48.

“Malaria and Empire in Bahrain, 1931-1947,” Gulf Studies Center Monographic Series No. 7 (March 2020): 1-30.

“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): 819-836.