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Sokhieng Au

Visiting Assistant Professor

MPH Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health 2009
Ph.D. UC Berkeley 2005

Contact information:

Research and Teaching Interests

The history and cultural understandings of medicine, the human body, and disease. In particular, global circulations, exchanges, and inequities in humanitarian aid, expertise, materials, techniques, and cultural and professional values. Area specialist in Southeast Asia and Central Africa (DRC). Prior research topics include a history of anatomy/dissection, central African power objects, political responses to the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic, and colonial medicine in Southeast Asia and Central Africa. 

Current active research interests: human migration over the last 500 years and the evolving notions citizenship and statelessness; a history of the protected status of the healthcare worker; and a connected history of Africa and Asia through a study of metis populations.


Sokhieng Au is a medical historian and public health practitioner focused on health and illness in the Global South. Her research examines medicine and disease broadly in both contemporary and historical perspectives, with particular focus on (cultural, scientific, technical) exchanges/interventions and global inequities in health. She is an area specialist in Southeast Asia and Central Africa. She worked with Doctors Without Borders for several years, and has researched and taught in universities in the United States, Europe, and Asia. Her first monograph was a study of French colonial medicine in Cambodia. Her two most recent publications examined Belgian colonial medicine in the Congo and present-day antibiotic overuse in Afghanistan.

Prior to joining Northwestern's faculty, Au was the interim director of the Global Health Studies Program at the University of Iowa. She spent the previous decade living in Europe, the Caribbean, South America, and Asia.

Global Health Courses Taught

  • Global Epidemics
  • Humanitarian Interventions and Health Inequities

Recent Publications (since 2017)

  • Co-editor with Michiel Hofman, The Politics of Fear: MSF and the West African Ebola Epidemic, Oxford University Press, 2017.
  • Co-editor with Kaat Wils and Raf de Bont, Bodies Beyond Borders: Moving anatomies 1750-1950, KU Leuven Press, 2017.


  • (Co-authored) Burtscher D, Van den Bergh R, Masood N, Au S, et al.: "‘They eat it like sweets’: A mixed methods study of antibiotic perceptions and their use among patients, prescribers and pharmacists in a district hospital in Kabul, Afghanistan," PloS one 16.11 (2021): e0260096.
  • "Medical Orders: Catholic and Protestant missionary medicine in the Belgian Congo 1880-1940," in special issue on Belgium and Medical History, Low Countries Historical Review, 2017, v. 132, issue 1, pp. 62-82. Open access at:
  • "Cutting the Flesh: Surgery, autopsy, and cannibalism in the Belgian Congo," Medical History, April 2017, v. 61, issue 2, pp. 295-312. Open access at:

Chapters/book sections

  • "Belgian Colonial Medicine" (co-authored with Anne Cornet), in edited book Medical Histories of Belgium, Joris Vandendriessche and Benoit Majorus eds., Manchester University Press, 2021, pp. 99-133.
  • “Anatomical Collecting and Tropical Medicine in the Belgian Congo," in edited book Bodies Beyond Borders: Moving anatomies 1750-1950, Kaat Wils, Raf de Bont, and Sokhieng Au, eds., KU Leuven Press, 2017, pp. 91-111.