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Health, Care and the Body

Health, Care and the Body

This Programme Group aims to analyse:

  • Changing experiences of health and well-being, sexual identities and body regimes
  • Social and cultural factors that influence the use of scientific knowledge in clinical settings, care and self-help practices.
  • The exercise of biomedical power and the patterns of resistance to and acceptance of medical regimes and scientific knowledge and technology.

They address a broad range of topics, including research on AIDS/HIV, the body and food, morality, reproductive health, children, crime, pharmaceuticals, genetics, medical technologies and practice.

The research cluster has an interdisciplinary character, including researchers working in the fields of medical anthropology and sociology, postcolonial, gender and sexuality studies, and the social studies of (bio)medical science and technology.

The Programme Group is divided in 4 subprograms:

  1. Globalization and the science and technologies of health policies and practices
    Focussing on the production, distribution, deployment and consumption of biomedical knowledge and technologies; both in clinical and in everyday settings. This subprogram is conducted in close collaboration with the Center for Global Health and Inequality (hyperlink).
  2. Young people's health and well-being 
    To develop the research field of child and youth health from an anthropological perspective, focussing on young persons as social actors and their understandings and actions concerning health and well-being.
  3. Anthropology of crime and violence 
    Focussing on phenomena of crime and violence. Crime and violence are considered products of complex socio-cultural relations and scientific and medical interventions.
  4. Postcolonial bodies and subjectivities
    Comparative research is being conducted on embodied experiences, the diversity in the configurations of (dis)abled and ageing bodies and the technologies and practices affording them and in the construction of racial, sexual and gendered identities. Like the history of medicines, research on chronically ill patients, queer and gay research, studies of sexuality in relation to HIV transmission, research on trans-gender and trans-sexuality, research on crime and criminal identification and research on the biomedical production of the family.
Read the entire programme of the Anthropology of Health programme group

Programme Group Leader

dr. H.J. (Anja) Hiddinga

Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

Programme group: Anthropology of Health, Care and the Body

Research Staff

Our Projects

  • COMBATTRAUMA: From warfare to welfare: a comparative study of how combat trauma is internalized and institutionalized

    This project is an anthropological study of combat trauma in three nations: Israel, the United States, and the Netherlands.  Trauma means different things to different actors, and acquires a different value (both economic and social) in different contexts.  Unusual within trauma studies, this research aims to shed light on potentially conflicting values and meanings surrounding violence and suffering in military and therapeutic cultures.

    Methodologically, it combines ethnographic fieldwork with veterans, research on clinical practices, and analysis of the policies and discourses that institutionalize combat trauma. 

    It includes as research subjects both war veterans from different ethnic groups as well as psychologists and psychiatrists.  A major aim is a comparative framework for understanding how war related suffering is internalized and institutionalized as clinical illness.

    • ERC Starting Grant  
    • Period 1/4/2013-31/03/2018
  • Transglobe

    The Trans Global Health programme, funded by the European Union Erasmus Mudus, educates the new generation of global health scientist able to apply transdisipclinary research approaches to meet todays health challenges.

    The studies conducted within the current programme will contribute to improved access to care and prevention; quality health services to ensure better health outcomes; innovative care constellations that build on patient/community engagement as well as public-private partnerships.

    Re-orientation of the current global health emphasis on infectious diseases by incorporating the challenges of non-health solutions will be realised through synergistic, transdisciplinary and evidence-based research. The programme has a specific attention for vulnerable populations.

    The programme enables PhD students to get a double degree, from two different partner institutes in two different European countries: in the Netherlands – VU University Amsterdam, University of Amsterdam, or Academic Medical Centre at the University of Amsterdam (AMC); France – University Bordeaux Segalen; Belgium – Institute of TropicalMedicine Antwerp; or Spain – University of  Barcelona Institute for Global Health.

    • Funded by: European Union Erasmus Mundus  
    • Period: 1-6-2013 until 1-6-2022
    prof. dr. A.P. (Anita) Hardon

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    Programme group: Anthropology of Health, Care and the Body

  • Chemical Youth

    This ERC funded (Advanced Grant) comparative ethnography aims to understand what chemical and pharmaceutical substances, and not only illicit narcotics, ‘do’ for youths.

    The everyday lives of contemporary youths are awash with chemicals and pharmaceutical compounds to boost pleasure, moods, sexual performance, vitality, appearance and health. Nevertheless, most studies of chemical use among young people have focused on the abuseof specific recreational drugs and their role within deviant youth sub-cultures. Instead of explaining drug abuse with the purpose of controlling it, this project aims to examine the pervasive use of chemicals from the perspectives of youths themselves.

    Research questions

    How are chemicals a part of their everyday lives? What role do they play in calming their fears or in achieving their dreams and aspirations? How can we understand the ways in which chemicals affect their bodies and minds? To answer these questions we will draw on and combine research repertoires from various disciplines - most notably medical anthropology, science and technology studies and youth studies. In this way we seek to formulate an innovative theoretical framework in which chemicals are not taken to be causal factors with always the same predictable effects, but are appreciated as substances that are tinkered with and made to work by youth in complex, bodily as well as social practices. The project will be conducted in four medium-sized cities: Marseille in France, Amsterdam in the Netherlands, Makassar in Indonesia, and Batangas in the Philippines. The social aim is to learn how, beyond policing and regulating transgressions, it will be possible to set up programs and interactive websites that support youth.

    • Funded by: European Union ERC 
    • Period: 1-5-2013 until 31-4-2018
    prof. dr. A.P. (Anita) Hardon

    Programme Leader

    For a comprehensive overview of the programme, the PhD candidates and affiliated researchers, please refer to the Chemical Youth project website.

    Chemical Youth project website

  • Bridging the Gaps: Operational & Impact Research on the Health and Rights for Key HIV/AIDS Populations Subtitel

    Bridging the Gaps is an international HIV programme on health and rights for LGBT people, sex workers and people who use drugs. Funded by the Dutch ministry of Foreign Affairs, Bridging the Gaps is the biggest global health program of its kind.

    The work consists of 21 key population projects in 16 countries, as well as four global advocacy projects.

    The mission of BtG is to achieve universal access to HIV/STI prevention, treatment, care and support for sex workers, LGBT people and people who use drugs.

    The program is an alliance of 5 Dutch-based organizations led by the Amsterdam Aids Fonds, with four global key population networks and more than 60 local partner organizations.

    To support global operational and impact research, the program has created a partnership with the University of Amsterdam Centre for Social Science and Global Health. Hosted by the lead agency (Aids Fonds), students can participate in research activities and conduct fieldwork supported by the consortium.

    Access to the field will be facilitated through the BtG alliance network if students are designing social science research topics that fall within the BtG operational research priorities. These are currently related to the following components:

    1. Treatment Cascading - what motivates those considered key populations to be engaged in treatment?
    2. Reaching the hard to reach - What are effective strategies in reaching key population populations?
    3. Service models Cost-efficiency – What are cost-effective/value for money service delivery models, what benchmarks are important?
    4. Violence – What is the impact of violence on safety and health among key populations? What interventions work in preventing or coping with violence?
    5. Health policies – What is the influence of changing policies on the lives of key populations? Or, how can negative policy change impacts the lives of key populations?
    dr. D.H. (Danny) de Vries

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    Programme group: Anthropology of Health, Care and the Body

    Bridging the Gaps project website

    Centre for Social Science and Global Health

  • Race Matter: On the Absent Presence of Race in Forensic Identification

    This, ERC funded, ethnographic project on race in forensic practice aims to study how technologies of identification shape race. The focus is on ‘face-making’ in forensic identification; i.e. the reconstruction of faces of unknown persons, a practice entwined with ‘race-making’.

    Research objective 

    The overall objective of this interdisciplinary project is to develop theoretical concepts and methods to grasp the absent present object race. The project goes beyond the social constructivist paradigm, by taking the biological into account. It attends to the materiality of race, i.e. the ways race is shaped as a set of relations between the biological, the social and the technical.

    It is the first to comprehensively study race and forensics, a highly relevant field where knowledge circulates constantly between science and society. The ethnographic subprojects are innovative in the way they compare frontier science of genetics to every day practices, such as facial composite drawings and skull-based reconstructions. Because of its focus on race-in-practice, this project will make a major contribution to the social sciences by providing tools to theorize the materiality of race. Finally, this innovative project comprises a multi-sited ethnography that follows routes of knowledge into and out of the laboratory to various sites in society.

    Subprojects 

    In five subprojects the study investigates: How technologies of facial identification in and outside laboratories enact race (subprojects 1-3); How versions of race change as knowledge moves across sites (subproject 4); The mechanism through which race becomes an absent present object, i.e. an object that appears to the surface, e.g. in discourse, to then go underground to hide in the routines and technologies of science, e.g. in genetic markers (subproject 5). 

    • Funded by: ERC Consolidator Grant
    • Period: 1-9-2014 till 31 August 2019
    prof. dr. A.A. (Amade) M'charek

    Principal Investigator

  • Becoming Men: Performing responsible masculinities in contemporary urban Africa

    This anthropological study examines the reconfiguration of masculinities in urban Africa over the last 30 years. Focusing on how practices and discourses of empowerment and equality shape male subjectivities, this study builds upon a significant body of nuanced research on masculinities in Africa.

    Since the mid-1980s academic and public discourses have depicted African masculinity as both precarious and predatory. Economic insecurity, urbanization, shifting gender norms, and growing gender parity have accompanied claims that African masculinity is ‘in crisis’. More recently, new stories of urban men embracing responsible fatherhood, condemning intimate partner violence, and demanding homosexual rights have emerged as exemplars of progressive possibility.

    About the study

    To disentangle these seemingly competing claims about African masculinities and shed light on the scientific, political, and economic projects that shape them, this research theorises that the discourses and practices that pathologise and politicise masculinity are simultaneously performing and producing gendered selves on multiple scales in the name of gender equality. Recently, ‘male involvement’ has become a rallying cry throughout the vast global development assemblage, around which governments, NGOs, research networks, activists, and local communities fight gender inequality to promote health, economic development, and human rights.

    In this research, a range of male involvement initiatives provides a lens through which to study how masculinities are diversely imagined, (re)configured, and performed through men’s engagements with this assemblage, in both its local and global manifestations. Multi-sited ethnographic research will focus on six cities where the PI has active research ties: Nairobi and Kisumu, Kenya; Johannesburg and Durban, South Africa; and Dar es Salaam and Mwanza, Tanzania.

    • Period: 5 years
    • Funding: ERC Consolidator Grant 
    dr. E.M. (Eileen) Moyer

    Research Co-ordinator

    Mr K. (Kathleen) O'Farrell

    Project Administator

    For a comprehensive overview of the project, researchers and affialated staff, please refer to the project website. 

    Becoming Men Project website

  • Young Burundians tactical agency regarding sexual relations and decision making: From participatory research to evidence-based and practically relevant sexuality education

    Project Summary

    The combination of violence, poverty, low coverage of youth friendly SRHR services (YFS), contradictory messaging, insufficient information from parents, and low quality comprehensive sexuality education (CSE) contributes to increased risks for STI/HIV infections, early pregnancies, abortions, and staggering levels of sexual and gender based violence in Burundi.
    To effectively address these problems, detailed knowledge is needed on how young people navigate sexuality in intimate relations, and how they are supported or obstructed by (f)actors on various levels.
    Although literature exists on generic factors, little is known about the diverging causal pathways explaining outcomes. The Burundian government has recently validated a national module including three manuals to provide CSE in school, SRHR information at community level and YFS in health facilities. Yet, young people are known to have difficulties bringing into practice knowledge received through CSE.

    Objective

    This study’s objective is to generate in-depth knowledge on how power structures and social processes inhibit or enable the internalisation and application of SRHR knowledge and skills by young people in Burundi, and to translate these findings into strategies strengthening current interventions, and their evidence base.
    Our approach is participatory, mixed methods, intertwining an ethnographic study with a natural intervention experiment, and process evaluation. Young people will act as co-researchers. The results will be translated to policy recommendations, using collaborative workshops with young people, and relevant stakeholders. By filling the knowledge gap on causal pathways leading to SRHR outcomes, and the role of CSE in these, this study will inform interventions in and beyond Burundi.

    Main-applicant

    • Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR), University of Amsterdam

    Co-applicants

    • School of Social Sciences, Makerere University, Uganda
    • CARE International in Burundi
    • Rutgers WPF, the Netherlands
    prof. dr. R. (Ria) Reis

    Principal Investigator

    dr. Miranda van Reeuwijk, Expert Advisor

    dr. Judith Westeneng, Postdoctoral Research

  • Sarphati CoHort studie

    UvA sociologen en antropologen actief in uniek wetenschappelijk Amsterdams onderzoeksinstituut (Sarphati Institute)

    In het instituut werken overheid, wetenschap en bedrijfsleven samen om welvaartsziekten als overgewicht, diabetes en hart- en vaatziekten aan te pakken. Zij werken aan oplossingen op het terrein van preventie en zorg en verbinden onderzoek, beleid en uitvoering met elkaar. 

    In dit nieuwe Amsterdamse onderzoekcentrum op het gebied van eten, bewegen en lichaamsgewicht werken verschillende disciplines van UvA en VU samen met de GGD, gemeente en industrie.

    Sociologie en antropologie

    Medewerkers van de afdeling sociologie en antropologie werken aan twee onderzoekprojecten:

    1. het opzetten van een kwalitatieve cohortstudie (dr. Christian Bröer) over bewegen en eten in combinatie met een epidemiologische studie onder alle pasgeborenen in Amsterdam en
    2. onderzoek naar de praktijkeneffecten van gedragsinterventies (Prof. Annemarie Mol). 

    Bovendien zijn er plannen om de rol van burgers in het instituut te versterken.

    prof. dr. A. (Annemarie) Mol

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    Programme group: Anthropology of Health, Care and the Body

    dr. C. (Christian) Bröer

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    Programme group: Political Sociology: Power, Place and Difference

  • Digital Sister for Urban Youth: Using New Technology For Effective SRHR Communication for Urban Youth of Bangladesh

    Bangladesh has one of the largest youth populations in the world, with an astounding 47.6 million within the age group of 15-24. While young people are bringing about socio-economic changes they remain a highly vulnerable population segment, having limited access to especially SRHR services and information.

    Traditional development paradigm prioritized rural development, focusing on poor youth population and their limited access to health, legal, and social services. Urban middle-class has traditionally been under-served, falling through the cracks between interventions exclusively for the poor and high-cost private services.

    A number of assumptions and myths surround the growing urban middle class youth and their social safety needs. There is limited understanding of what this population want and how they are accessing services given culture of stigmatization on especially issues of sexuality, sex education, and reproductive health and well-being.

    The Maya platform creates a unique space whereby for the first time economically empowered yet socially limited urban youth have a digital platform to ask questions anonymously, without the fear of being judged for their decisions and choices.

    These questions indicate that young people across the socio-economic spectrum face similar challenges when accessing SRHR information and services, yet urban middle-income youth are completely missing from the equation.

    By using the data set from Maya platform, we can better access on the ground burning questions and issues that are affecting the lives of urban youth in Bangladesh and develop effective communication tools for behaviour change among practitioners.

    Research questions

    The main objective of the proposed research is to effectively answer the question: what do urban young people in Bangladesh need in accessing services and information on SRHR?

    Research activities

    • Quantitative and Qualitative Analysis of Maya Apa Questions
    • Communications and Behaviour Change Tools and Content Development
    • Results and Report Dissemination

     

    • Funded by: NWO
    • Period: February 2016 - January 2018
    prof. dr. A.P. (Anita) Hardon

    Coordinator

    dr. W. (Winny) Koster

    Researcher UvA

    Ms S. (Shahana) Siddiqui

    Principal investigator UvA

  • Ending New Infection in Swaziland: A Catalytic Model for Southern Africa (Dreamfund Postcode Loterij)

    STOP AIDS NOW! and Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI) have been granted Euro 8.8 million for a Treatment Centered Prevention (TCP) project in Swaziland from 2011-2014. The project will ensure that at least 90% of those in need of treatment under current guidelines are on treatment by the end of 2014.

    There is considerable scientific evidence supporting the use of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in prevention of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and tuberculosis (TB) infections. The complex nature of the HIV and TB prevention responses, resource constraints, remaining questions about cost and feasibility, and the need to use a solid evidence base to make policy decisions, and the implementation challenges to translating trial data to operational settings require a well-organised and coordinated response to research in this area.  

    Research goal 

    The impact of universal access to treatment based on clinical and immunologic criteria on HIV incidence will be evaluated. The study will determine whether a 50% reduction in the number of new HIV infections in Swaziland is possible by 2020 .

    • Funded by: StopAidsNow (SAN),Clinton Health Access Initiative (CHAI)

    • Period: 1-6-2011 until 30-6-2018
    prof. dr. A.P. (Anita) Hardon

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    Programme group: Anthropology of Health, Care and the Body

    Ms E.E. (Eva) Vernooij MSc

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    Programme group: Anthropology of Health, Care and the Body

    prof. dr. R. (Ria) Reis

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    Programme group: Anthropology of Health, Care and the Body

  • Normativities of waste water treatment: Putting micro-algae to work in Ecovillage Boekel

    Current sanitation systems fulfil their promise of preventing infectious diseases. However, they overuse potable water, allow valuable resources to go to waste and have trouble combatting chemical contaminations. This is problematic from an ecological as well as a societal point of view. The project proposed combines three lines of research so as to develop a water saving system that recovers nutrients and microelements while removing micro-pollutants and human pathogens from domestic waste water.

    Line (1) is concerned with the technological aspects of the design; line (2) with its social aspects; while (3) analyses the normativities involved. The normative analysis forms an integral part of the design process. Building on earlier work in the ethics of technology we will articulate the diverse normativities implied in the system under development (e.g. saving water is a good, but water saving toilets may be hard to adapt to); and map the shifting moral landscapes of water treatment in which responsibilities shift (e.g. from individual to infrastructure or the other way around) while things become ‘good’ or ‘bad’ in new ways (e.g. discarding wet toilet paper in the toilet becomes bad as it harms the microalgae involved in the treatment). Combining technological exploration, user ethnography and normative analysis we will design, implement, evaluate and adapt a sanitary system for eco-village Boekel. The aim is to design a system that in a later stage may be further implemented elsewhere. At the same time we hope to give a boost to the ethics of technology.

    • Period: April 1, 2017 - March 31, 2020
    • Funding: NWO MVI
    prof. dr. A. (Annemarie) Mol

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    Programme group: Anthropology of Health, Care and the Body

  • The development of a community engagement plan (2017-2020) for the elimination of malaria in Haiti, commissioned by The Carter Center

    Building upon initial research from 2016, the aim of this project is to develop a community engagement plan for Malaria Zero malaria elimination activities in Haiti 2017-2020.

    Background

    The Malaria Zero Alliance is supporting the ministries of health in Haiti and the Dominican Republic to eliminate malaria from Hispaniola by 2020. The program involves the use of a combination of existing and innovative interventions that are likely to be efficacious and that are suitable for the situation in Haiti: robust surveillance, diagnosis and treatment, vector control, and focal MDA. The Carter Center is responsible for overseeing community engagement related to anti-malaria interventions, including development of a community engagement plan for this program.

    An initial community engagement plan has been written based largely on the experience of the program to eliminate lymphatic filariasis in Haiti.  Although there are significant differences between malaria and LF elimination, lessons learned from the LF program are assumed to be relevant for malaria elimination. A major emphasis of the LF community engagement model is targeting of core actors or leaders within targeted communities. 

    Initial formative research has been carried out by researchers from Tulane University School of Public Health in two departments, Grande Anse and Nord, with high and medium transmission respectively to inform the design of community-directed interventions.

    Experience from community engagement research in other settings suggests that expanding the focus of the current community engagement strategy beyond currently targeted community leaders could increase the effectiveness of the program as a whole. This indicates a need for additional research, as does the question of how declining transmission might affect community perceptions of malaria across a range of transmission settings and the importance of elimination interventions.

    Additionally, the hurricane in October, which affected the departments of Grand Anse and Sud in particular, has disrupted malaria elimination activities, and the effects of this disaster (infrastructural, public health, social, political) have to be factored into new community engagement plans.

    Activities

    Aim: To develop a community engagement plan for Malaria Zero malaria elimination activities in Haiti 2017-2020.

    This plan will build on the existing 2016 community engagement plan, results of the formative research already carried out by researchers from Tulane and the experiences of the existing LF elimination program in Haiti. It will utilize additional data collected during new formative research in Haiti, discussions with various stakeholders, reviews of relevant literature and existing data, and experience in other projects. In addition, expertise relating to community mobilization in situations of disaster, collective shock and unpreparedness will be included, given the nature of the Haitian context.

    The following activities will be carried out:

    1. Review the recent literature on community engagement, malaria elimination, MDA, and Haiti with a focus on its relevance for community engagement in relation to malaria elimination in Haiti.
    2. Study existing data collected as part of other relevant research in Haiti (e.g. the Tulane data, the CDC survey) to the extent that such data can be shared.
    3. Review all relevant information on the effects of the recent hurricane and their relevance for community engagement strategies.
    4. Visit Haiti to get a feel for the local situation, discuss with local stakeholders, and set up the research. Possibly also a visit to Atlanta for discussion with TCC.
    5. Plan and carry out additional formative research in Haiti. This will probably consist of small, targeted, rapid ethnographies in 2-4 different sites.
    6. Analyze the results from the additional formative research and relate this to existing data and plans.
    7. Submit an initial draft CE plan to TCC for discussion and feedback. This could involve a second trip to Haiti and/or Atlanta.
    8. Revise the draft CE plan on the basis of feedback and discussion and submit a near-final 2nd version for additional comments and approval.
    9. Submit a final CE plan to TCC.
  • Global Future Health: A Multi-sited Ethnography of an Adaptive Intervention

    The proposed research project is a multi-sited ethnography of an emergent global health intervention to improve nutrition in the first 1000 days of life.

    The intervention links growth during this 1000-day window to chronic and mental illness, human capital, food security, and ecosystem sustainability, positing early life nutrition as the key to meeting the United Nations’ sustainable development goals. The intervention draws numerous disciplines and geographic regions together in a holistic pursuit of a sustainable and healthy collective future. It then unfolds in different settings in diverse and localized ways. The research team will work with first 1000 days experts as well as study deployment sites in the Netherlands, Guatemala, and the Philippines. The innovative anthropological techniques of contrasting and co-laboring will allow us to both analyze the intervention and contribute to its further fine-tuning. Health experts currently recognize that there are social complexities within and differences between the sites involved, but tend to treat these as obstacles to overcome. The innovative force of our research is to consider the adaptive transformations of the intervention as a source of inspiration rather than a hindrance. Where experts currently prioritize the question of how to translate expert knowledge into interventions in the field, we will ask how lessons from the field might be translated back into expert knowledge and, where relevant, made available elsewhere. In the process we will enrich the anthropological repertoire, moving it beyond a choice between criticism or endorsement, turning living with/in difference into both a social ideal and a research style.

    • Period: January 1, 2018 - December 31, 2022
    • Funding: EU ERC
    dr. E.J.F. (Emily) Yates-Doerr

    Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences

    Programme group: Anthropology of Health, Care and the Body

  • Worlds of Lithium: A Multi-Sited and Transnational Study of Transitions towards Post-Fossil Fuel Societies

    Cristóbal Bonelli

    ERC Starting Grant


    Cristóbal Bonelli’s project is an anthropological study that examines how the strategic replacement of fossil fuels with electric transport powered by lithium-ion batteries is taking place in Chile, the largest lithium producer worldwide, China, the world leader in lithium-ion battery production, and Norway, likely to become the world’s first ‘zero emission’ electric vehicle country. A lot of public attention goes to the promise of electric vehicles, meaning less oil will be needed for road transport. What remains hidden, however, are the disruptive transformations of the landscapes and societies through which lithium travels. It is these transformations that Bonelli will bring into public view with his project. In doing so, he will provide an anthropological early warning to European policymakers concerned with the electrification of transport, thus encouraging a better informed discussion of the sustainability of processes currently powering unequal ‘Worlds of Lithium’.