The Cressida Jervis Read Seminar will take place annually on the first Monday of Trinity Term
Cressida Jervis Read was trained as a social anthropologist, and researched in the fields of anthropology and history with a focus on South Asia as well as on issues of development, urbanization, and health, with a particular focus on mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever. After receiving a PhD in Social Anthropology (‘Making Delhi Like Paris: Space and the Politics of Development in an East Delhi Resettlement Colony’) from the University of Sussex in 2010, Cressida worked at the University of Sussex and University College London before coming to the University of Oxford as a Postdoctoral Researcher in 2012.
At Oxford, Cressida researched the emergence of dengue fever in Delhi in the mid-1990s, using this to examine the intersections of health, urbanisation, and the environment – and the ways in which people negotiated everyday dilemmas of living with mosquitoes, as part of the research programme ‘The Challenge of Urbanisation: Health and the Global City’. From 2015, Cressida researched the contemporary history of malaria in India (after 1947), as part of the interdisciplinary project ‘Invisible Crises, Neglected Histories c. 1900 – present: Malaria in Asia’.
Her publications include analyses of the relationship between urban dwelling and everyday politics of citizenship in Delhi (Un-Settlement: Demolition, Home Remaking, and the Everyday Politics of Citizenship in a Low-Income Delhi Neighborhood, Frontier Town: Marking Boundaries and Negotiating Social Relationships in a Delhi Resettlement Colony 30 years on) as well as the role of narration in responses to resettlement (‘A place in the city: Narratives of ‘emplacement’ in a Delhi resettlement neighbourhood’) – always attuned to human-environmental interactions and, in her words, ‘how people create spaces to live in and speak from in the maelstrom of city life.’
Cressida was particularly interested in interdisciplinary and collaborative research, and her work demonstrates the benefit of such approaches – not just between anthropology and history, but also incorporating fields such as politics, development studies, and medicine. She was also involved in public engagement and outreach, even designing ‘The Malaria Game’ – a board game where players work together to prevent an epidemic, while learning about the interplay between humans, mosquitoes, and malaria (available through the Oxford University Public Engagement with Research Board Games group).
Many will remember Cressida not only through her research – including lively discussions on her beloved ‘neglected’ dengue fever – but also through her supportive approach to scholarship. She helped to establish numerous collaborative seminar series as well as the writing group for doctoral students and early career researchers in history of science and medicine. Cressida brought scholars together through her engaging personality: her infectious laugh, her warm personality, as well as her thoughtful approach to understanding key parts of human life and our relationship with changing environments.
Cressida died of cancer in April 2023; her husband and two children survive her.
From 2024, the first University of Oxford History of Science, Medicine, and Technology seminar of every Trinity Term will be held in her honour, with a seminar on a topic related to her research interests.