Past Lectures


João Biehl, Ph.D.

Susan Dod Brown Professor of Anthropology, Princeton University

Friday, April 1, 2:30 – 3:30 p.m., Zoom

Lecture Title:

Insurgent Archivings: Sensing the Spirit of Nature and Reckoning with Traces of Our Dead


Dr. Biehl will discuss his recent research on 19th century German colonies of southern Brazil. Affective archives that have endured as traces-of-what-one-does-not-know testify to the home as an ongoing, unfinished index of survivals and as an archiving operation combining the historical and the unhistorical in the refiguring of humanness, social belonging, and futurity. The archives carry people’s imaginative and horizon-making capacities that include the Spirit of Nature and relationships to our dead.


Tiantian Zheng, Ph.D.

SUNY Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, State University of New York, Cortland

Friday, February 11, 2:00 – 3:00 p.m., Zoom

Lecture Title:

Health and Social Activism of Self-Identified Gay Men in Postsocialist China


Based on ethnographic research on self-identified gay men in Northeast China, this talk addresses the ways in which self-identified gay men cope with the hostile social environment through consciously shifting identities between the public and private. Dr. Zheng argues that the contradictions embedded in their shifting identities undercut the goals they aspire to reach, perpetuate social prejudice against them, and thwart the activism they purport to do.


Sienna Craig, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Dartmouth College

Thursday, April 22, 4:00 – 5:30 p.m., Zoom

Lecture Title:

Kinship, Care, and Attunement to Stories: Himalayan Lives between Nepal and New York City


For centuries, people from Mustang, Nepal, have relied on agriculture, pastoralism, and trade as a way of life. Seasonal migrations to South Asian cities for trade as well as temporary wage labor abroad and Mustang-based tourism have shaped their experiences for decades. Yet, more recently, permanent migrations to New York City are reshaping lives and social worlds. Mustang has experienced one of the highest rates of depopulation in contemporary Nepal – a profoundly visible transformation that contrasts with the relative invisibility of Himalayan migrants in New York. Drawing on more than two decades of fieldwork with people in and from Mustang, The Ends of Kinship: Connecting Himalayan Lives between Nepal and New York, the book on which this presentation is based, combines narrative ethnography and short fiction to engage with foundational questions in cultural anthropology: How do different generations abide with and understand each other? How are traditions defended and transformed in the context of new mobilities? Craig draws on khora – Tibetan Buddhist concepts of cyclic existence as well as the daily contemplative act of circumambulating the sacred – to theorize cycles of movement and patterns of world-making, shedding light on how kinship remains both firm and flexible in the face of migration. From a high Himalayan kingdom to the streets of Brooklyn and Queens, The Ends of Kinship asks how individuals, families, and communities care for each other and carve out spaces of belonging in and through diaspora, at the nexus of environmental, economic, and cultural change. This presentation will also touch on the ways that COVID-19 is impacting Mustang lives from Nepal to New York, and how Himalayan cultural practices and Tibetan Buddhist philosophies are shaping their responses to this pandemic.

Order the book from the University of Washington Press site, using the code W193 to receive a 30% discount on your order. Read more about the book and explore teacher-facing resources here.


Katharina Rynkiewich, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Scholar, Department of Anthropology, Case Western Reserve University

Thursday, September 17, 4:30 – 5:30 p.m., Zoom

Lecture Title:

Betwixt and Between: Studying up American Medicine


Dr. Rynkiewich is a sociocultural anthropologist with research interests in antimicrobial prescribing and infectious disease practice in the United States. Her current research focuses on practices of infection control and antimicrobial stewardship within regional networks of care, including perceptions and understandings of germs and infection control among healthcare workers. In this talk, Dr. Rynkiewich will draw on her experience working in and around American medical settings to share methods and challenges associated with hospital-based ethnographic research.

Dr. Rynkiewich is a Postdoctoral Scholar in the Department of Anthropology at Case Western Reserve University. She has worked with hospital-based practitioners at public and private healthcare facilities since 2013 and is a co-investigator with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Epicenters Program (2016-2020). Dr. Rynkiewich was awarded a Doctoral Dissertation Research Grant from the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research (2018).


Colleen Walsh, Ph.D.

Assistant Professor of Health Sciences, Cleveland State University

Thursday, February 13, 4:30 – 6:00 p.m., Mather Memorial Room 201

Lecture Title:

Community-Engaged Ethnography on Race and Health: Findings from ARCHES (AmeRicans’ Conceptions of Health Equity Study)


Dr. Walsh is an alumna of CWRU. She is a medical anthropologist who specializes in urban health. She is currently Co-PI for ARCHES, the AmeRicans’ Conceptions of Health Equity Study, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.


Susan Crate, Ph.D.

Professor of Anthropology, Department of Environmental Science and Policy, George Mason University

Monday, January 27, 4:30 – 6:00 p.m., Mather Memorial Room 201

Lecture Title:

“From Siberia Speaks the World: Ethnographic Insights in Times of Change”


Dr. Susan A. Crate is an environmental and cognitive anthropologist on the forefront of anthropological research on climate change. Her research on local experiences and understandings of climate change in Viliui Sakha communities in Siberia resulted in her 2006 book, Cows, Kin, and Globalization: An Ethnography of Sustainability (AltaMira Press, 2006). In 2009, she co-edited Anthropology and Climate Change: From Encounters to Actions (Left Coast Press, Inc., 2009) and in 2016, the second volume, Anthropology and Climate Change: From Actions to Transformations. She also served on the American Anthropology Association’s Task Force on Climate Change.


Emily Mendenhall, Ph.D., MPH

Provost’s Distinguished Associate Professor, Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University

Thursday, January 23, 4:30 – 6:00 p.m., Tinkham Veale University Center Senior Classroom

Lecture Title:

“Rethinking Diabetes: Considerations of Hunger, Trauma, Precarity, and Insulin”


Dr. Emily Mendenhall received the George Foster Award for Practicing Medical Anthropology by the Society for Medical Anthropology in 20177 for her ethnographic work on the intersection of social trauma, poverty and chronic disease globally. Her first book, Syndemic Suffering: Social Distress, Depression, and Diabetes Among Mexican Immigrant Women (2012, Routledge) explored the experiences of immigration and social isolation in Mexican women in Chicago. Her recent book, Rethinking Diabetes: Entanglements of Poverty, Trauma, and HIV (2019, Cornell University Press), expanded this work to examine the experiences of low-income people in Chicago, Delhi, Johannesburg and Nairobi.


Rachel R. Chapman, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Washington

Friday, March 22, 5:00 – 6:00 p.m., Mather Memorial Room 201

Lecture Title:

“Austerity, Precarious Use and the Elusive AIDS Free Generation in Mozambique”


“My commitment is to researching, publishing and applying to real world problems an understanding of the meaning and politics of race, class and gender identities as they intersect in culture with power to inform the life chances and life quality of people on the margins of society. Unifying my research and writing to date is concern with exposing the intricate ways that race, class and gender shape social hierarchies in the U.S. and global order, and with grounding questions of race, class, and gender inequalities within nonessentialist understandings of identity. The theme that runs through my work is my attention to continuity and survival strategies in poor communities. That commitment has crystallized in the study of the reproductive health of women in difficult circumstances, from the structural violence affecting impoverished women in a gentrifying neighborhood in Los Angeles, to women in war torn and AIDS ravished Mozambique and back to women who lack prenatal health care in an economically depressed and racially segregated American city.”


Crystal L. Patil, Ph.D.

Associate Professor and Interim Department Head, Department of Women, Children and Family Health Science, College of Nursing, University of Illinois at Chicago

Wednesday, October 3, 5:00 – 6:00 pm, Mather Memorial Room 201

Lecture Title:

“Invisible and in the Spotlight Situating Sickle Cell Disease in Our Teaching and Research”


Anthropologists draw on ecological and social determinants frameworks to make sense of complex health-related problems and illuminate the pathways to health disparities. However, the ways that US academics teach the evolution and microbiology of sickle cell disease in our introductory human biology, genetics, and microbiology courses may inadvertently undermine the experiences of those living with this chronic and debilitating disease. Data from a mixed-methods ethnographic study are used to discuss the lived experiences of patients with sickle cell disease through the lenses of invisibility and marginality. The spotlight on the evolutionary biology, the allele, and natural selection may contribute to rendering the lived experience of this chronic and disabling disease invisible. I question aspects authoritative knowledge and hope to spark conversations teaching about sickle cell disease. This discussion is important for human biologist to have given that a large proportion of our students end up in the health care system and may treat this population in the future. I hope to illustrate the importance of telling a complete and more nuanced story acknowledging historical, political, and racial tensions surrounding this disease.

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Svea Closser, Ph.D.

Associate Professor, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Middlebury College

Monday, September 17, 5:00 – 6:00 pm, Mather Memorial Room 201

Lecture Title:

“Does Volunteer Community Health Work Empower Women? Evidence from Ethiopia’s Women’s Development Army”


Professor Svea Closser is a medical anthropologist whose research focuses on the interaction between global health policy and discourse and local health systems.

Currently, she is a co-PI of a National Science Foundation-funded project in rural Amhara, Ethiopia. Their focus is on local, materially-impoverished volunteers who serve the rural health system of one of the poorest countries in the world, as well as on the Ethiopian and transnational health officials who rely on and organize these volunteers. Their research goals are to understand how and why global health projects justify the use of volunteer labor in the context of historically unprecedented funding of global health, and how the well-being of volunteers is affected by their service.

Along with Peter Brown, she is the editor of the textbook Understanding and Applying Medical Anthropology (Left Coast Press, 2015).

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