“The Prince Claus Chair has given me the academic freedom and time to truly commit to interdisciplinarity”

Dr Himani Bhakuni about her work as a postdoctoral researcher.

As of October 2020, Dr Himani Bhakuni joined Dr Seye Abimbola, the Prince Claus chairholder on Justice in Global Health Research, as the Postdoctoral Researcher. A reflection on her work for the Chair so far and her perspective on what to look forward to.

Himani Bhakuni

Equity and Injustice at the forefront of international development

“The current world situation (the Corona pandemic) has placed, more than anything, equity and justice issues at the forefront of international development”, tells Himani. “What we are unceasingly witnessing – the inequities in vaccine distribution, the differential values placed on human life and on human voices – has made our work on amplification of injustices in global health research more important. Of course, all our work has gone online and despite not having had a chance to meet my colleagues at Utrecht and Chairholder Dr Seye Abimbola in person, I believe we have nonetheless been able to build a collaborative network of people who want to see changes in certain global health practices.”

What do you do as the Postdoctoral Researcher for your Chairholder? Can you reflect back on your accomplishments (more than a year into the chair-period?)

Developing strategies to best deliver the content

Himani has come on board in October 2020, so she’s been working alongside Seye for the past eight months. “Since I am working with the Prince Claus Chair on a part-time basis, when I am not lecturing on legal subjects, I conduct research alongside Seye. We develop strategies on how to best deliver our content, in terms of publications and presentations, to the practitioners and interested parties in global health. We have been working together these past few months to raise a framework of injustice in the knowledge systems in global health. We are now developing an empirical project based on that framework. As an Assistant Professor at UMC Utrecht (which is hosting this term’s PCC) I am also actively researching and have produced key outputs on justice concerns within the more expansive health rights framework (reproductive justice, transitional justice, and ecological justice).”

Providing great opportunities for a postdoctoral researcher

“The position of postdoctoral researcher for the Prince Claus Chair provides great opportunities”, Himani says.The best part about being a part of the PCC community is the opportunity to network with like-minded scholars. It is rare to be given the academic freedom and time to truly commit to interdisciplinarity, I think the PCC gives you that space. I come from a legal background, and I’ve mostly worked around the field of health law and bioethics, so to be welcomed into a Medical Center and to be given the opportunity to work with experts in public health and epidemiology has been quite precious.”

Unpacking the idea of ‘equity’ in global health research

There’s a lot to be done in the coming period of the appointment. Himani: “One of the things that I’m looking forward to is building on our current work on epistemic wrongs in global health and to realise ways to mitigate the situations within which those wrongs arise, whether through policy changes or via institutional or individual efforts. I am also looking forward to unpacking the idea of “equity” within global health research, whether we employ it as a buzzword or do we have a ‘common’ understanding of equity in the global health circles.

The equity and justice in global health research work of both Seye Abimbola and Judith van de Kamp is funded by NWO – Wotro Science for Global Development.