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Dr Maria Berghs

Job: Early Career Academic Fellow (ECAF)

School/department: School of Allied Health Sciences

Research group(s): Health Studies and Sociology

Address: Hawthorn Building 0.36a, The Gateway, Leicester UK

T: +44 (0)116 257 7910




Personal profile

Maria Berghs is an anthropologist with a PhD in sociology and social policy. She works in the field of medical anthropology and sociology, specialising in disability studies. Her research interests include disability, global health (sickle cell), humanitarianism, ethics, gender and West Africa (Sierra Leone).

She has published a monograph entitled War and Embodied Memory: Becoming Disabled in Sierra Leone (Routledge 2016), numerous chapters, journal articles and commentary pieces in places such as The Conversation. With Professor Atkin at the University of York and Professor Dyson at De Montfort University, she worked on an National Institute for Health Research – Research for Patient Benefit (NIHR-RfPB) study investigating the experiences of fathers invited for a genetic test for sickle cell during antenatal care. That research has been published in the journals Sociology, Social Science & Medicine, and Health. A guide for fathers and their families was also produced to use in practice to ensure informed decision making. Dr. Berghs has advised Public Health England and she has presented the findings of her research to the All Parliamentary Group on Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia.

She is currently publishing the results of a collaborative project between the University of York and Lancaster University funded by the National Institute of Health Research-Public Health Research (NIHR-PHR), examining disability inclusion in public health randomised controlled trials (RCTs). The project involved using rights in empirical-ethical design of interventions to make them more robust and equitable.


Research group affiliations

Unit for the Social Study of Thalassaemia and Sickle Cell.
Health Policy Research Group

Research interests/expertise

• Disability paradigms in global north and south
• Disability, humanitarianism and conflict
• Disability, social movements, activism and rights
• Social aspects of sickle cell, gendered access to reproductive technology and involvement in RCTs
• Genomic research and the involvement of families and children
• Understanding sickle cell as chronic illness and research for cure
• Global public health and interventions for equity
• The relationship between empirical-ethics and human rights in interventions
• Rethinking the binary sociology of/in bioethics paradigm

Areas of teaching

  • Medical Sociology
  • Global Public Health
  • Disability
  • Gender


MA Philosophy (University of Leuven, Belgium)
MA Social and Cultural Anthropology (University of Leuven, Belgium)
PhD in Sociology and Social Policy (University of Leeds, United Kingdom)

Courses taught

Maria will be teaching across the Sociology and Health Studies programme supporting modules in Medical Sociology, Research Methods, and Health Sciences.

Membership of professional associations and societies

British Sociological Association (Medical Sociology)

American Anthropological Association (Medical Anthropology)

Society for Disability Studies

European Association of Social Anthropologists

Association for Studies in Innovation and Technology (AsSIST) Canadian Healthcare Ethics Network

Conference attendance

Selected conferences from the NIHR-PHR study ‘Implications for Public Health - Research of Models and Theories of Disability’:

Anthropology and Global Health: Interrogating theory, policy and practice, MAGic, University of Sussex, UK, 9-11th September 2015, Rethinking (global) public health interventions (RCTs): ethics, polemics and practices for equity., Berghs, M., Atkin, K., Graham, H., Hatton, C. & Thomas, C.. Presentation given by Dr. Berghs..

Oxford Global Health and Bioethics Conference, Keble College, hosted by ETHOX and Nuffield Department of Population Health, University of Oxford, 17th-18th July, Ethics and Polemics: Rethinking RCTs from the Global Public Health of Disability Perspective Berghs, M., Atkin, K., Graham, H., Hatton, C. & Thomas, C..  Presentation given by Dr. Berghs.

Oxford International Health Conference, St Hughes, University of Oxford, 25th-2th of June 2015, Inequalities, Blind Spots and Lack of Evidence: Rethinking Interventions to understand a Public Health of Disability Berghs, M., Atkin, K., Graham, H., Hatton, C. & Thomas, C. Presentation given by Dr. Berghs.

Recent research outputs

Berghs, M. 2017. Emancipatory Engagement and Co-Production: Disability Research for Activism. London: Sage Research Case Methods.


Berghs, M., 2016. Disabled states and impaired citizens in the global south. Bio, necro to impairometrics. Minority Reports. Cultural Disability Studies, (2), pp.237-256.


Berghs, M.J., Atkin, K.M., Graham, H.M., Hatton, C. and Thomas, C., 2016. Implications for public health research of models and theories of disability: a scoping study and evidence synthesis.


Atkin, K., Berghs, M. and Dyson, S., 2015. ‘Who's the guy in the room?’Involving fathers in antenatal care screening for sickle cell disorders. Social Science & Medicine, 128, pp.212-219.


Berghs, M., 2016. War and embodied memory: Becoming disabled in Sierra Leone. London: Routledge.


Dyson, S.M., Berghs, M. and Atkin, K., 2016. ‘Talk to Me. There’s Two of Us’: Fathers and Sickle Cell Screening. Sociology, 50(1), pp.178-194.


Berghs, M., Atkin, K. and Dyson, S., 2014. Involving Fathers in Ante-Natal Screening for Sickle Cell Disorders: Improving Informed Decision-Making.


Dyson, S., BERGHS, M. and Atkin, K.M., 2015. Talk to Me. There’s Two of Us. Sociology.


Berghs, M., 2016. Shakespeare, T.(ed.) Disability Research Today: International Perspectives. London and New York: Routledge. 2015. 254pp£ 29.99 ISBN 978–0415748445 (pbk).


Berghs, M., 2016. Neoliberal policy, chronic corruption and disablement: biosecurity, biosocial risks and the creation of ‘Ebola survivors’?. Disability & society, 31(2), pp.275-279.


Berghs, M., Dyson, S.M. and Atkin, K., 2015. Resignifying the sickle cell gene: Narratives of genetic risk, impairment and repair. Health:, p.1363459315595850.


Berghs, M., 2015. Gun violence, disability & recovery. Disability & Society, 30 (3): 484-5.


Conteh, E. and Berghs, M., 2014. ‘Mi At Don Poil’: A Report on Reparations in Sierra Leone for Amputee and War-Wounded People. Draft report, Amputee and War-Wounded Association, Freetown, Sierra Leone.


Berghs, M., 2014. The new humanitarianism: Neoliberalism, poverty and the creation of disability. Disability, human rights and the limits of humanitarianism, pp.27-44.


Berghs, M. 2014. Native American communities on health and disability: borderland dialogues. Disability & Society,  29 (6) 985-987.


Berghs, M., 2015. Disability and displacement in times of conflict: Rethinking migration, flows and boundaries. Disability and the Global South, 2(1), pp.442-459.


Berghs, M. and Kabbara, N., 2016. Disabled people in conflicts and wars. In Disability in the Global South (pp. 269-283). Springer International Publishing.


Berghs, M., 2016. Local and Global Phantoms: Reparations National Memory and Sacrifice in Sierra Leone. Rethinking Disability: World Perspectives in Culture and Society, p.275.


Berghs, M., 2013. The global economy of care. Disabling barriers-enabling environments. London: Sage.


Berghs, M., 2011. Embodiment and emotion in Sierra Leone. Third World Quarterly, 32(8), pp.1399-1417.


Berghs, M. and Dos Santos-Zingale, M., 2011. A comparative analysis: everyday experiences of disability in Sierra Leone. Africa Today, 58(2), pp.18-40.


Berghs, M., 2010. Coming to terms with inequality and exploitation in an African state: Researching disability in Sierra Leone. Disability & Society, 25(7), pp.861-865.

Consultancy work

Member of the Ebola Response Anthropology Platform

Professional esteem indicators

Editor for Disability & Society and Frontiers (medical sociology). Occasional editorial duties for journals such as Ethnicity & Health. I also occasionally review books on disability for differing journals as well as publishing houses. I also review grants.

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