Dr Josephine Robertson


School of Communication and Arts
Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
+61 7 336 52147


Following her doctoral research, on the representation of leprosy in colonial Queensland, Jo Robertson took up a position as a researcher, at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine, at the University of Oxford, as coordinator of the International Leprosy Association’s Global Project for the History of Leprosy, with a steering committee of international experts. Drawing upon the considerable research base that this project established, she was commissioned to write a monograph on the recent history of leprosy, while based at the Institut d'Histoire de la Médecine et de la Santé, Centre Médicale Universitaire (CMU), at the University of Geneva, in Switzerland, which is a WHO collaborating centre. She is currently based in the School of Communication and Arts, in the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Queensland, Australia, where she is teaching in the Writing Area.

Research Interests

  • Medical History
    I am interested in the politics of representation of disease and the body, within which economic, political, and legislative imperatives play out their differing determinations in multiple layered international, national, and specific localities, as well as in their continuities and discontinuities from colonial into post colonial contexts. I am particularly interested in the continuing impact of isolation through several generations; the negotiations between non-governmental organisations, international organisations such as WHO, and national entities responsible for public health. More generally, I am interested in the making of testimony and memorial, as represented in both material culture and in the literary, as well in the writing, popularization, and adaptation of medical and scientific histories.

Research Impacts

From 2001 until 2007, I worked on the Global Project on the History of Leprosy, which was the initiative of the International Leprosy Association. The project was fully funded by the Nippon Foundation and was based at the Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine at the University of Oxford. The Project was dedicated to developing a database of leprosy archives around the world, as a working tool for researchers who were interested in the modern history of leprosy. The work of this project was also of interest to those connected with leprosy and its impact.

The collections documented in the database include a wide range of organisational, policy, scientific and medical archives as well as leprosaria records, museums and libraries. Also included are private collections of those who have worked in the field and collections of testimonies from people affected by the disease. The project aimed to create pathways for researchers and to encourage the preservation of archives.

Additionally, the project began to foreground the voices of people affected by leprosy, particularly through the efforts of the International Association for the Integration of Dignity, Equality, and Economic Advancement (IDEA). This aimed to "bring life" to the archival aspects of the project by testifying to the experiences of people who have been affected by the disease.


  • PhD, The University of Queensland
  • Master of Arts, The University of Queensland
  • Bachelor of Arts (Hons 1), The University of Queensland


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View all Supervision


Book Chapter

  • Robertson, Jo (2011). The leprosy-affected body as a commodity: Autonomy and compensation. In Sarah Ferber and Sally Wilde (Ed.), The body divided: Human beings and human "material" in modern medical history (pp. 131-164) Farnham, Surrey, United Kingdom: Ashgate Publishing.

  • Robertson, Jo (2007). Colonial Cordon Sanitaire: Fixing the boundaries of the disease environment. In Tiffin, Helen (Ed.), Five Emus to the King of Siam: Environment and Empire (pp. 221-234) Amsterdam: Rodopi.

  • Robertson, Jo (2007). In search of M. Leprae: Medicine, public debate, politics and the Leprosy Commmission to India. In Leigh Dale and Helen Gilbert (Ed.), Economies of representation, 1790-2000: Colonialism and commerce (pp. 41-57) Hampshire, England: Ashgate Publishing.

  • Robertson, Jo (2005). Culion, the 'Island of the Living Dead'. In Astri Andresen, Kari Tove Elvakken and Tore Gronlie (Ed.), Politics of prevention, health propoganda, and the organisations of hospitals 1800-2000: Conference proceedings (pp. 81-92) Bergen, Norway: Stein Rokkan Centre for Social Studies.

  • Robertson, Jo (2002). Anxieties of Imperial Decay: Three Journeys in India. In H. Gilbert and A. Johnston (Ed.), In Transit: Travel, Text, Empire (pp. 103-123) NY: Peter Lang.

  • Robertson, Jo (1992). Black text; White reader. In Delys Bird (Ed.), Whose place?: a study of Sally Morgan's My place (pp. 32-45) Moss Vale, NSW, Australia: Angus & Robertson.

Journal Article

Conference Publication

  • Blair, R. M., Robertson, J. and Kato, K. (2001). Myth management, image-making and whaling. In: Hindmarsh, Richard, Situating the Environment at the University of Queensland. Situating the Environment at the University of Queensland, St Lucia, Brisbane, Australia, (8-18). 15-16 February 2001.

Other Outputs

Grants (Administered at UQ)

PhD and MPhil Supervision

Current Supervision

  • Doctor Philosophy — Principal Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Master Philosophy — Associate Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Master Philosophy — Associate Advisor

  • Doctor Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

  • Master Philosophy — Associate Advisor

    Other advisors:

Completed Supervision