Medical Anthropology at the Intersections:
Celebrating 50 Years of Interdisciplinarity


Plenary Speakers

Lawrence Cohen Paul FarmerDidier FassinGelya FrankArthur Kleinman
Barbara Koenig Margaret Lock Emily Martin Annemarie Mol Lynn Morgan
Richard ParkerRayna Rapp Merrill Singer


Medicine/Primary Care

Paul Farmer (Harvard University, Partners in Health), will address the intersection between anthropology and medicine, particularly the importance of primary health care delivery for the world’s poor.

Medical anthropologist and physician Paul Farmer is a founding director of Partners In Health, an international non-profit organization that provides direct health care services and undertakes research and advocacy activities on behalf of those who are sick and living in poverty. Dr. Farmer is the Maude and Lillian Presley Professor of Social Medicine and Chair of the Department of Global Health and Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and an attending physician in infectious diseases and Chief of the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) in Boston. Along with his colleagues at BWH, in the Program in Infectious Disease and Social Change at Harvard Medical School, and in Haiti, Peru, Russia, Rwanda, Lesotho, and Malawi, Dr. Farmer has pioneered novel, community-based treatment strategies for AIDS and tuberculosis (including multidrug-resistant tuberculosis). Dr. Farmer and his colleagues have successfully challenged the policymakers and critics who claim that quality health care is impossible to deliver in resource-poor settings. In addition to his clinical work, Dr. Farmer has written extensively about health and human rights, and about the role of social inequalities in determining the distribution and outcomes of infectious diseases. His most recent book is Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor. View plenary presentation.

Global Public Health

Didier Fassin (University of Paris) will discuss the burgeoning interest in global public health and how medical anthropology contributes to the alleviation of global health inequalities, as well as numerous sources of disease and suffering.

Didier Fassin is James D. Wolfensohn Professor of Social Science at the  Institute for Advanced Study of Princeton and Director of Studies in anthropology at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales. He directs the Interdisciplinary Research Institute for Social Sciences (CNRS – Inserm – EHESS – University Paris North). Trained as a medical doctor, he has been Vice-President of Médecins sans Frontières and is currently President of the Comité médical pour les exilés. His field of interest is political and moral anthropology, including inequalities and discrimination, immigration and racialization, health and humanitarianism, moral economies and the politics of life. His recent publications include:  De la question sociale à la question raciale? (with Eric Fassin, La Découverte, 2006), Les politiques de l’enquête. Épreuves ethnographiques (with Alban Bensa, La Découverte, 2008), as editor; When Bodies Remember. Experience and Politics of AIDS in South Africa, (University of California Press, 2007) and The Empire of Trauma. An Inquiry into the Condition of Victimhood (with Richard Rechtman, Princeton University Press, 2009), as author. View plenary presentation.

Mental Health

Arthur Kleinman (Harvard University) will discuss medical anthropology’s long-term concern with ethnopsychiatry, as well as new forms of mental illness related to war, refugeeism, homelessness, and other forms of trauma.

Arthur Kleinman is the Esther and Sidney Rabb Professor of Anthropology in the Department of Anthropology, Harvard University, and Professor of Medical Anthropology and Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School. From 1990-2000 he chaired Harvard Medical School’s Department of Social Medicine, and from 2004-07 he chaired the Anthropology Department in Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences. Since July 2008 he is the Victor and William Fung Director of Harvard University’s Asia Center. An anthropologist-physician, he has conducted research in Chinese society since 1968. His central research and teaching interests have been the experience of serious illness, the experience of caregiving, social suffering, and deep ways of knowing the person in the moral context. He also has worked extensively on global mental health policies and programs, the medical humanities, and the culture of medicine. He was the first foreign researcher to study the impact of the Cultural Revolution on Chinese who were victimized during that time. He is the author of 220 articles, 6 books, and co-editor of more than 30 volumes and special issues of journals. His most recent published work has been on caregiving. Dr. Kleinman has advised 65 Ph.D. dissertations, and mentored over 200 postdoctoral fellows. His honors include the Wellcome Medal for Medical Anthropology; the Franz Boas Award from the American Anthropological Association; and both the Career Achievement Award and the George Foster Practicing Medical Anthropology Award from the Society for Medical Anthropology. He is a member of the Institute of Medicine in the National Academies and of the American Association of Arts and Sciences. His most recent book is What Really Matters: Living a Moral Life Amidst Uncertainty and Danger, 2006. View plenary presentation.

Medical History

Lynn Morgan (Mt. Holyoke College) will discuss the use and relevance of historical approaches to medical anthropology, and the value of applying historical perspectives to medical practices and concepts.

Lynn Morgan’s work deals with the intersections between medical anthropology, medical history, political anthropology, and feminist science studies.  Her research on the history of human embryo collecting in the US has explored the way that local scientific traditions shape beliefs about the unborn. She is the co-editor of Fetal Subjects, Feminist Positions, which interrogates the politics of abortion and new debates about fetal personhood. She has also conducted extensive research in Latin America, employing political, economic, and historical approaches in her ethnographic study Community Participation in Health: The Politics of Primary Care in Costa Rica (1993).  Her latest book, Icons of Life: A Cultural History of Human Embryos has just been released by the University of California press. Dr. Morgan is Mary E. Woolley Professor of Anthropology at Mount Holyoke College and is currently a Weatherhead Fellow at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe. View plenary presentation.

Feminism and Technoscience

Emily Martin (New York University) will address the intertwined histories of medical and feminist anthropology, and outlining future possibilities for applying feminist analytics to techoscientific developments.

Emily Martin’s work has combined feminist analysis with ethnographic investigation to shed light on the gendered meanings encoded in medical texts, and the ways that these medical models in turn shape individuals’ understandings of their gendered and social bodies. Dr. Martin’s early book, The Woman in the Body: A Cultural Analysis of Reproduction (1987), was a path-breaking example of feminist technoscience studies, critically examining medical and scientific representations of female bodies, from menarche to menopause. The book was awarded the SMA’s Eileen Basker Prize for outstanding research in gender and health. Since then, Dr. Martin has gone on to publish two more seminar medical anthropological volumes, including Flexible Bodies: Tracking Immunity in American Culture from the Days of Polio to the Age of AIDS (1994), and her recent Bipolar Expeditions: Mania and Depression in American Culture (2007). Dr. Martin is a Professor of Anthropology at New York University. View plenary presentation.

Science & Technology Studies

Annemarie Mol (Amsterdam University) will examine how science, technology, and medicine are produced, reproduced, reformulated, and sometimes resisted within diverse cultural settings.

Annemarie Mol is Socrates Professor Social Theory, Humanism and Materialities in University of Amsterdam. Trained in both philosophy and the social sciences, Mol bridges the fields of science and technology studies and medical anthropology. Her book, The Body Multiple: Ontology in Medical Practice (2002) was awarded the Ludwik Fleck Prize by the Society for Social Studies of Science; as well as the Sociology of Health and Illness Book Prize. Mol has co-edited two collections dealing with medical and other forms of knowledge as this works and works out "in practice:" Differences in Medicine: Unraveling Practices, Techniques, and Bodies (2002) and Complexities: Social Studies of Knowledge Practices (1998). Her most recent book, The Logic of Care (2008), draws on fieldwork in a diabetes clinic to argue that "patient choice" is not as liberating as it is advertised to be, but rather risks to erode "good care." Rather than on deliberate decisions, "good care," she details, depends on persistent, shared tinkering with technologies, bodies and daily lives. View plenary presentation.


Margaret Lock (McGill University) will discuss the development of genetic technologies and how they are producing new knowledge and subjectivities regarding hereditary forms of risk.

Margaret Lock is Marjorie Bronfman Professor Emerita affiliated with the Department of Social Studies of Medicine and the Department of Anthropology at McGill University. Her research and teaching has focused largely on an anthropology of the body, comparative epistemologies of medical knowledge, and the global impact of emerging biomedical technologies. She is the author and/or co-editor of 14 books and has published over 190 articles. Her 1993 monograph Encounters with Aging: Mythologies of Menopause in Japan and North America won six prizes, including the J.R. Staley Prize of the School of American Research, the Canada-Japan Book Prize, and the Wellcome Medal of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain. Twice Dead: Organ Transplants and the Reinvention of Death published in 2002 was also awarded two prizes. Lock has a co-authored book written with Vinh-Kim Nguyen in press titled An Anthropology of Biomedical Technologies and Human Difference, and is currently working on a monograph tentatively titled The Eclipse of the Gene and the Return of Divination. Dr. Lock is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada and an Officier de L'Ordre national du Québec. She was awarded the Prix Du Québec domaine Sciences Humaines in 1997. In 2002 she received the Canada Council for the Arts Molson Prize, and in 2005 the Canada Council for the Arts Killam Prize and a Trudeau Foundation Fellowship. In 2007 she was awarded the Gold Medal for Research by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Career Achievement Award of the SMA. View plenary presentation.


Barbara Koenig (Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and University of Minnesota) will discuss bioethics and regulation regarding new forms of medical intervention, and how local moral systems intersect with religion, medicine, and law.

Barbara Koenig studies contemporary biomedicine, working within the interdisciplinary field of bioethics. She is Professor of Biomedical Ethics and of Medicine at the College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, and Faculty Associate at the Center for Bioethics, University of Minnesota. She serves as Co-Director of Mayo Clinic’s Program in Professionalism and Bioethics. Dr. Koenig has pioneered the use of empirical social science methods in the study of ethical questions in science, medicine, and health.  Her methodological expertise is in the design of research using multiple methods -- both quantitative and qualitative -- and integrating empirical research findings into normative ethical analysis, thus informing the development of health policy and bioethics practices. Her research focuses on new biomedical technologies, particularly those within the genomic sciences. Dr. Koenig served on the Department of Health and Human Services “Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Genetic Testing,” a group charged with making recommendations about federal oversight of genetic testing in the U.S. She also served on the Ethics Advisory Committee for the Director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. Dr. Koenig is currently performing NIH-funded research examining the implications of emerging knowledge in the genetics and neurobiology of addiction, and human subjects protections in DNA biorepositories linked to electronic medical records. As part of Mayo Clinic’s initiatives in “Individualized Medicine” she is CoPI of a “proof of principle” clinical trial that examines direct-to-consumer provision of predictive genetic risk assessment. Her most recent book is a collection of essays titled, Revisiting Race in a Genomic Age, Rutgers University Press (2008). She is an elected fellow of the Hastings Center. View plenary presentation.

Public Policy

Merrill Singer (University of Connecticut) will discuss ways that medical anthropologists can contribute productively to health policy-making on multiple levels, including among governments, NGOs, philanthropies, and independent think tanks.

Merrill Singer is Professor at the Center for Health, Intervention and Prevention, University of Connecticut, and a research affiliate at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS (CIRA) at Yale University.  He is best known for his research on substance abuse, HIV/AIDS, health disparities, and minority health, but he has recently begun new work in the area of environmental health. As Director of the Center for Community Health Research at the Hispanic Health Council in Hartford, CT, Dr. Singer helped to develop the theoretical perspective within medical anthropology known as "critical medical anthropology," which focuses on political-economic determinants of health (1986, 1995, 1998). He has also developed the public health concepts of "syndemics" and "oppression illness" (1995, 2004). Dr. Singer is the winner of SMA's Rudolph Virchow Award and George Foster Award for the Practice of Medical Anthropology, as well as the Career Recognition Award from the Society for the Anthropology of North America.  He has published over 135 scholarly articles and 40 book chapters, as well as numerous edited and coauthored volumes. His most recent solo-authored books are Something Dangerous: Emergent and Changing Illicit Drug Use and Community Health (2005), The Face of Social Suffering: Life History of a Street Drug Addict (2006), and New Drugs on the Street: Changing Patterns of Illicit Consumptions (2005). View plenary presentation.

Occupational Science

Gelya Frank (University of Southern California) will discuss the ways in which work, and the organization of physical and social space, affect people’s lives and well-being, and how occupational science is emerging to address these issues.

Gelya Frank is Professor, Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy and Anthropology, at the University of Southern California, where she helped to found the discipline of occupational science. She is also a leading anthropological scholar of life history and life story approaches, with her book Lives: An Anthropological Approach to Biography (1981). Dr. Frank is a past president of the Society for Humanistic Anthropology, has served on the Board of Directors of the American Anthropological Association, and is on numerous editorial boards, including the Journal of Occupational Science. Her book Venus on Wheels: Two Decades of Dialogue on Disability, Biography, and Being Female in America (2000) received the SMA's Eileen Basker Prize. Dr. Frank is a recipient of the 2000 Phi Kappa Phi Faculty Recognition Award and also appears in Who's Who Among America's Teachers 2000. She was named a 2002-2003 National Endowment for the Humanities Resident Scholar at the School of American Research in Santa Fe, New Mexico, writing a book on reconstructing the lived experience of a 19th-century Native Californian tribal community. View plenary presentation.

Disability Studies

Rayna Rapp (New York University) will discuss anthropological perspectives on the experiences of people with non-normative bodies and minds, and how disability studies has emerged to examine interactions with the social, built, and political environments.

Rayna Rapp is Professor in the Department of Anthropology at New York University, where she is also an affiliated faculty member in the Center for Bioethics. As one of the founders of feminist anthropology, Dr. Rapp is the editor of several seminal volumes, including Toward an Anthropology of Women (1975), Conceiving the New World Order (Ginsburg and Rapp 1995), and Articulating Hidden Histories (Rapp and Schneider 1995). Her research has focused on gender and reproduction, particularly the use of prenatal genetic testing, and has explored the genetics of disability, eugenic discourses in American society, and the notion of "genetic citizenship." Her book Testing Women, Testing the Fetus: The Social Impact of Amniocentesis in America (1999), has won numerous awards, including the Eileen Basker Prize, the Diana Forsythe Prize, and the J.I. Staley Prize of the School of American Research. Dr. Rapp's current research on the familial impacts of learning disability diagnosis and treatment links medical anthropological analysis with key themes from disability studies. View plenary presentation.

Gender/ LGBT/Sexuality Studies

Richard Parker (Columbia University) will discuss medical anthropological engagement with gender studies, including the importance of LGBT and sexuality studies in the era of HIV/AIDS.

Richard G. Parker is Professor of Sociomedical Sciences and Director of the Center for Gender, Sexuality, and Health at the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University. His research focuses on the social and cultural construction of gender and sexuality, the social aspects of HIV/AIDS, and the relationship between social inequality, health, and disease. He has conducted long-term research in Brazil since the early 1980s, as well as comparative studies in Asia, Africa, North America, and other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean. In addition to his academic work, Dr. Parker has also served on numerous commissions and held a range of positions in program and advocacy work. In 1992, he served as chief of the prevention unit for the Brazilian National AIDS Program, and from 1992 to 1995, as executive director of the Brazilian Interdisciplinary AIDS Association (ABIA), the largest non-governmental AIDS-service and advocacy organization in Brazil. In 1995, he was named the secretary general of ABIA’s Board of Directors, and in 1998 he was elected as ABIA’s president. Dr. Parker is Co-Chair of Sexuality Policy Watch, an international collective of activits, researchers and policymakers focusing on social policies related to sexuality, and currently serves on the board of directors of the Commission on Citizenship and Reproduction (CCR) based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the International Council of AIDS-Service Organizations (ICASO), based in Toronto, Canada, and the International Planned Parenthood Federation-Western Hemisphere Region (IPPF-WHR) based in New York City in the USA.  He is the editor-in-chief of the journal, Global Public Health, and founding editor of Culture, Health and Sexuality. His books include Bodies, Pleasure, and Passions: Sexual Culture in Contemporary Brazil (1991), Beneath the Equator: Cultures of Desire, Male Homosexuality and Emerging Gay Communities in Brazil (1999), and Sexuality, Health and Human Rights (with Sonia Corrêa and Rosalind Petchesky) (2008). View plenary presentation.

International and Area Studies

Lawrence Cohen (University of California, Berkeley) will discuss the importance of language, culture, history and politics in the understanding of health, illness, and healing around the globe.

Lawrence Cohen is Professor of Social and Cultural Anthropology and South and Southeast Asian Studies at the University of California, Berkeley.  Trained as both a physician and an anthropologist, Dr. Cohen's work focuses on the critical study of medicine, health, and the body in India.  His first book, No Aging in India: Alzheimer's, the Bad Family and Other Modern Things (1998), won the Victor Turner Prize, the American Ethnological Society's First Book Prize, and Honorable Mention for the Wellcome Medal.  As an area studies scholar, Cohen's work has focused on India, with fieldwork conducted in urban north India (Banaras, Lucknow, Allahabad), in the metropolis (Dehli, Calcutta, Mumbai, Chennai, and Bangalore), and in parts of rural Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh.  He is currently working on two book projects: India Tonite examines homoerotic identification and representation in the context of political and market logics in urban north India, and The Other Kidney focuses on the global traffic in organs for transplant as played out in India.  The latter is part of a larger collaborative project with Nancy Scheper-Hughes called Organs Watch (Cohen 2001; Scheper-Hughes 1996; Scheper-Hughes 2000). View plenary presentation.