Dr Tess Bird

Tess Bird

Postdoctoral Affiliate

Research: Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork within middle class households in Providence, RI, in the U.S. from 2014-2015, my thesis considered: how do people adapt to change and negotiate uncertainty through their everyday material and social worlds? And how do uncertainty-related practices connect to questions of health and wellbeing? Many anthropologists have turned their attention to conditions of precarity, vulnerability, and uncertainty, where human wellbeing is at stake. My research considers uncertainty at the level of the everyday, where basic disruptions to home life can threaten our sense of wellbeing, cause stress, or exacerbate instability. Paying attention to how middle class households manage uncertainty can shed light on what people have to negotiate even when their circumstances are not particularly precarious or insecure. Ethnographic examples from the ‘Renaissance’ city of Providence describe how participants’ attend to interruptions to everyday life. In a public locale where the word ‘hope’ is emblazoned on the state flag and encouraging providence— through a combination of imagination, inventive preparation, and trust is a daily practice, creatively seeking wellbeing and negotiating uncertainty in the private household become a part of the making of new American futures.

My research offers insight into the ubiquity of uncertainty and suggests that we must attend to disruptions at the micro-levels of society, including the mundane daily life of the home, where the social and material tethers of life are most intimately negotiated. My findings also contribute to research on health in the home, American ethics of care, and the long-term management of uncertainty on the individual and city or state level. I aim to work at the intersection of qualitative health research, policy, and creative entrepreneurship.

In the past, I have worked as a medical-legal researcher in occupational and consumer health; as an editor and developer for online medical education platform; and in event planning for a global health non-profit. 

Research and teaching interests: medical anthropology; visual and material anthropology; urban anthropology; political ecology; obesity and the body; nutrition; neoliberalism; insecurity; local economies of food and drink; visual and material anthropology; the visual culture of science; pharmaceutical marketing; biomedicalization; corporate accountability and research ethics; gender and sexuality.

url: www.tessbird.com