Profile: Robert Stock

Robert Stock, International Liaison Officer for the College of Arts Sciences, University of Saskatchewan, Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. While Bob’s current position is primarily administrative, he continues to maintain teaching and research interests centered on Africa and international development, and is currently Acting Coordinator of the International Studies Program. He continues to maintain an active interest in health geography, particularly about how health intersects with culture, society-environment relations and underdevelopment.

Bob Stock grew up on a farm about 100 miles west of Toronto, Ontario. His initial education as a geographer came informally through daily encounters with nature near home, summer vacations in several parts of North America, and two of his boyhood obsessions — stamp collecting and atlas-browsing. After some inspiring teaching and two summers as a research assistant in Baffin Island, he emerged from undergraduate studies at the University of Western Ontario convinced that his future lay in Arctic geomorphology.

A four-year stint as a volunteer small-town high school teacher in Nigeria changed his life. In 1972, shortly before his term in Nigeria ended, there was a cholera outbreak. Visits to a hospital in Kano seared death and crisis-management medicine into his memory. Upon returning home, his desire to learn more about Africa led him to Michigan State University. Here he encountered the emerging discipline of Medical Geography in Dr. John Hunter’s course, and was fascinated to learn that one could make some geographic sense of cholera epidemics. He wrote a thesis on the diffusion of cholera, which was subsequently published as a monograph, Cholera in Africa.

Bob went to the University of Liverpool in 1974 for PhD studies under Professor Mansell Prothero. He became curious about primary health care in Africa, and particularly the role of distance as a determinant of health facility utilization. Fieldwork in Nigeria made him aware of the importance of indigenous medical knowledge as a determinant of health-related behavior. Through post-doctoral research, he learned more about the several distinct Hausa healing traditions and the rich diversity of Hausa ethnomedical systems.

Out of concern to stimulate student interest about Africa, and to counteract prevailing stereotypes about the continent, he wrote, and Guilford Press published the textbook Africa South of the Sahara: A Geographical Perspective, now in its second edition. He took an active role in establishing and leading a new Development Studies program at Queen’s University. He reckons this initiative was a highlight of his academic career. He left Queen’s for Saskatchewan in 2001 to take his present administrative post.

His spouse, Evelyn Peters, is the other geographer in the family; her research is on the social geography of Aboriginal urbanization and identities in Western Canada. They have two active teenagers, Matthew and Rachel. Bob may be contacted at bob.stock@nullusask.ca.

Updated: February 2009