Dr Michelle Pentecost

michelle pentecost web2

Postdoctoral Affiliate

Michelle Pentecost is a lecturer in the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine and Director of the BA Programme in Global Health and Social Medicine at Kings College London. A physician-anthropologist by training, her research and publication record reflects her work and interest across disciplines including clinical medicine, anthropology, science and technology studies, urban studies and global health. Michelle holds a degree in medicine from the University of Cape Town and has a decade of work experience as a clinician in South Africa. She defended her doctorate in Anthropology at the University of Oxford in 2017, specialising in the anthropology of postgenomics and global health. She is currently working on a monograph based on this work, provisionally titled The First Thousand Days: Global Health and the Politics of Potential in South Africa, which interrogates the logics and implications of "the first thousand days" as an object of global health, premised on new scientific understandings of risk and heredity in the context of South Africa's national nutrition policy, which focuses squarely on the perinatal period and the mitigation of intergenerational disease transmission.

Michelle is in the early stages of her next project, which will examine how advances in developmental neuroscience are reshaping early childhood policy and social practice in the global South. Epigenetics has emerged as an important framework for neurodevelopmental disorders in African contexts, where specific challenges cited include paediatric HIV infection, early life exposure to antiretroviral therapy, and perinatal depression. This project will aim to make a novel contribution as a study of the material, ethical and social implications of postgenomic understandings of cognition and development for clinical practice, policy, and concepts of childhood in settings of the global South. 

Michelle is also currently a co-investigator on a Wellcome Trust project titled 'Urban animals, human livelihoods and health in the global south: a trans-species approach'. This project questions the current anthropocentric nature of urban planning and public health through comparative ethnographic work in Cape Town and New Delhi. Her contribution to this interdisciplinary project is an interrogation of the notions of environment and exposure at work in the governance of non-human life in ecologies of the global South, and the implications for concepts of health and life.

Michelle's other research interests engage questions around the place of inter/transdisciplinary work, particularly in the settings of medical pedagogy and medical and health humanities. She is a founding member of the Health Professions Special Interest Group of the Medical and Health Humanities Africa Network. She is especially interested in the contemporary roles of the physician (and the physician-anthropologist) across the clinical, academic and public sectors, and the opportunities and challenges that accompany them.

Selected publications:

Pentecost M. 2017. The First Thousand Days: Epigenetics in the age of Global Health. In: The Handbook of Biology and Society. Meloni M, Cromby J, Fitzgerald D, Lloyd S (eds). London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Pentecost M, Ross FC, MacNab A. 2017. Beyond the dyad: making DOHaD interventions more inclusive. Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease. doi:10.1017/S2040174417000629.

Pentecost M, Cousins TD. 2017. Strata of the political: epigenetic and microbial imaginaries in post-apartheid Cape Town. Antipode, doi: 10.1111/anti.12315.   

Oni T, Smit W, Matzopoulos R, Hunter Adams J, Pentecost M, Rother H, Albertyn Z, Behroozi F, Alaba O, Kaba M, van der Westhuizen C, Shung King M, Levitt NS, Parnell S, Lambert EV, RICHE members. 2016. Urban Health Research in Africa: Themes and Priority Research Questions. Journal of Urban Health, 2016, 1-9.      

Ulijaszek S, Pentecost M, Karpe F, Wardle J, Frubeck G, Nowicka P. 2016. Inequality and childhood overweight and obesity: a commentary. Paediatric obesity, doi:10.1111/ijpo.12128.


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