Catherine Burns


University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa

Catherine Burns was educated at University of the Witwatersrand, the Johns Hopkins University, and Northwestern University, where she earned her PhD in History. Her research interests focus on medical and health history, the history and ethnography of reproduction and sex, ethics in biomedical research, and the history of gender in southern Africa. She has taught at several universities in the USA, and at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, where she was based from 1995-2009. From 1999 to 2002 she was head of the interdisciplinary Programme of Gender Studies, and from 2005-2007 head of History at University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa -- where she was Associate Professor of History from 2005 until her appointment as a Technical Advisor at the Maternal, Adolescent and Child Health, a Division of WITS Health Consortium, in Durban.

Dr. Burns joined Wits Institute for Social and Economic Research in January 2012. She has taught in History, in Medicine and Public Health, and in Gender Studies, and has supervised many masters & doctoral students across several disciplines, history; sociology; anthropology; politics; nursing; religious studies; development studies and public health. She is completing a manuscript for a jointly authored book on the history of a major health institution in the region and inaugurated a Project on Sex Histories (POSH) in 2012. Catherine, with Ashlee Masterson, convened "Body Knowledge: Medicine and the Humanities in Conversation," an international conference in September 2013 at WITS. The second Symposium in this theme was held in June 2014,  and several research groups under the "Medical Humanities in Africa" title met throughout that year. Catherine is also working on getting to press the biography of a herbalist and midwife who lived and practised in South Africa from 1880 to 1940.