Eram Alam

Eram Alam

Assistant Professor in the History of Science
eram alam

Areas of Research:  History of Medicine; History of Social Sciences; Global Health; Postcolonial Studies; Immigration

Eram Alam specializes in the history of medicine, with a particular emphasis on globalization, race, migration, and health during the twentieth century.

Her first book, The Care of Foreigners, explores the enduring consequences of post-colonial physician migration from Asia to the United States. Since at least the 1960s, the US has trained fewer healthcare providers than it needs, relying instead on the economically expedient option of soliciting immigrant physicians. Initiated during the Cold War with the passage of the Hart-Celler Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, the arrangement was conceived as a temporary stopgap. However, it has since become a permanent feature of US healthcare with immigrant physicians comprising at least a quarter of the physician labor force to date. The entanglement between immigration, foreign policy and US healthcare has perpetuated a segmented system whereby foreign physicians are directed to care for vulnerable patients in under resourced communities throughout the country. The Care of Foreigners foregrounds global dynamics embedded in the medical system to ask how and why Asian physicians – and especially practitioners from South Asia – have become integral to US medical practice and a ubiquitous presence in mainstream mass media.

Alam is also co-editing a volume with Dorothy Roberts entitled Ordering the Human: Global Science and Racial Reason (Columbia University Press, forthcoming). This collection explores the malleability and situatedness of race; how race operates as a political technology in various times and places; the work of consolidating racial ways of knowing; and the forces and flows that dictate the movement of racial concepts in scientific knowledge production.


Alam’s next project, The Logistical Body, was motivated by the pandemic and the subsequent breakdowns it made visible. Contemporary logistics is an attempt to master time and space to generate efficient, unimpeded movement. However, as we collectively witnessed, disruptions are inevitable; environments, nature, and uncooperative labor regularly threaten smooth operations forcing logistics to confront its limits. The Logistical Body investigates one limit – the material remainder of the laboring body within this hypermobile regime – and excavates the strategies, techniques, and logics used to manage this disordered entity. Logistics has reshaped subjectivities by altering the temporality of the political and technical, producing new ways of thinking and seeing, and compelling novel modes of care.


Select Publications

“Documenting Difference: Standardizing Foreign Physicians,” American Quarterly (forthcoming, March 2023).

(with Eric Reinhart) “The Neocoloniality of Who Cares: US Underinvestment in Medical Education Exacerbates Global Inequities.” British Medical Journal 371: m4293.

“Cold War Crises: Foreign Medical Graduates Respond to US Doctor Shortages, 1965–1975.” Social History of Medicine 33 no.1 (2020): 132–51.

"Review of Doctors Beyond Borders: The Transnational Migration of Physicians in the Twentieth Century," Social History of Medicine 30, no. 3 (August 2017): 706–708.


Contact Information

Science Center 361
p: (617) 494-8103