Dr. Rebecca Hester is an Assistant Professor of Social Medicine and the Director of the Social Medicine Track in the Institute for the Medical Humanities. She is also a Senior Fellow at UTMB’s Center to Eliminate Health Disparities. Her scholarship draws from the social sciences and the humanities to focus on questions of body politics, global health, Immigration, and the cultural politics of health and medicine.
Dr. Hester completed her doctoral training in the Department of Politics at the University of California Santa Cruz with an emphasis in Latin American and Latino Studies. She received her Bachelor’s degree in Spanish and Portuguese with an emphasis in Latin American Literature from the University of California Berkeley where she graduated with high honors. She came to the University of Texas Medical Branch in 2010 after completing a post-doctoral fellowship in Latino Studies at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Biopolitics and Medicalization
Feminist Studies of Embodiment and the Political Economy of the Body
Global Health and Critical Security Studies
Critical Race Studies, Immigration, and Indigenous Cultural Politics
Her recent research is focused on tracing out the contours of what President Obama has called “biological danger” and illuminating the politics that inheres in attempts to pre-empt, prevent, and/or eradicate such danger. Using feminist theories of embodiment and theories of biopower, the research aims to intervene in a molecular politics that fails to understand the ways that our lives are all interconnected and ‘at stake’ in techno-scientific endeavors that purport to make us more secure. She has also written about the political economy of biology, cyborg politics, and the ways that molecular discourses in infectious disease prevention contribute to a racial politics.
In addition, Dr. Hester is co-editing a book on immigration, health and security in North America. The interdisciplinary book, entitled The Vital Security Complex: Health, Immigration and Security in North America, draws from a variety of fields including political science, social work, public health, history, and anthropology to show the inter-relation between immigration, health and security discourses and policies and their impact on the everyday lives and deaths of migrants. The book argues that there has been an increase in Latin American migrant morbidity and mortality in the northern hemisphere since the war on terror began in 2001 and the war on drugs began in Mexico in 2006. The authors in The Vital Security Complex link this upsurge in trauma, illness, disease and death to national security policies in both the U.S. and Mexico, policies which paradoxically propose to make communities more secure through their implementation.
Dr. Hester is involved in a number of community projects in Galveston including Hear our Voice (hearourvoicegalveston.org), and a community education effort to provide factual information about unaccompanied Central American children at the U.S.-Mexico border. She is an advisor to Centro Binacional para el Desarrollo Indígena Oaxaqueño, an indigenous Mexican migrant-led non-profit in California, as well as an advisor to Frente Indígena de Organizaciones Binacionales, a binational indigenous rights advocacy organization with offices in Oaxaca, Baja California and California. She serves on the board of director’s at the St.Vincent’s Hope Clinic and she is the Co-Chair of the the Health, Science and Society Section of the Latin American Studies Association.