Anthropology of Health Research Program
Based on the crosscutting expertise of our faculty, McMaster University’s Department of Anthropology is uniquely situated to offer MA and PhD degrees in Anthropology with a concentration in Health. In addition to research skills, problem solving and critical analysis, this concentration offers an intellectual breadth beyond traditionally defined medical anthropology.
MA and PhD degrees in Anthropology with a concentration in Health
Cultural perspectives, including a focus on discursive and experiential facets of embodied life, trauma and social exclusion, gastronomic heritage and foodways, the cultivation of well-being, community-engaged research, and Indigenous, biomedical, and scientific knowledges.
Historical perspectives on topics concerning the evolution and emergence of infectious diseases, past epidemics, pathogenomics, medicinal plants in antiquity, and the bioarchaeology of human disease.
Biocultural perspectives, including studies of food and nutrition, health inequalities, syndemics, ethnicity and health.
The Anthropology of Health concentration trains students in a range of theories and methodologies that can be brought to bear in the analysis of health and disease-related phenomena. Faculty members have a diverse range of interests and theoretical perspectives, but we share a common concern for an engaged and critical anthropology that informs our understanding of how social determinants of health intersect and influence the well-being of individuals and communities, and how our investigations may benefit those with whom we conduct research.
Students interested in applying for the Anthropology of Health are encouraged to contact relevant faculty members directly, prior to application.
The Anthropology Department at McMaster is a node of expertise in a University with extensive interdisciplinary resources. Students in the Anthropology of Health concentration take advantage of many other health research areas at McMaster and beyond, and we encourage inquiry-based learning and research that is multi-disciplinary, participatory and collaborative in nature. Students are encouraged to take at least one course outside of the department.
Areas of Focus
Faculty and students have carried out fieldwork in many parts of the world in urban and rural environments, and in clinical, laboratory and community settings. Our interests are wide ranging – from the study of ancient DNA and molecular processes, skeletal evidence for health and disease in the past, through explorations of illness experiences, social relationships and healthcare settings, and the analysis of historical and contemporary epidemics, health care policies and the structural inequalities that impact well-being.
Professional Placements of Graduates
The Anthropology of Health program provides a learning environment in which students are encouraged to pursue their individual interests. Students are supported in developing professional skills both for academic positions, and for practicing anthropology in non-academic settings.
Health-Related Graduate Courses Anthropology
- ANT 705 Advanced Skeletal Biology
- ANT 707 Past Perspectives on Health
- ANT 710 Gastronomic Heritage
- ANT 717 Readings in the Anthropology of Health
- ANT 740 Biocultural Synthesis
- ANT 744 Ancient Biomolecules and Bioarchaeological Chemistry
- ANT 745 Topics in Bioarchaeology
Other Departments, Programs, and Schools at McMaster with Health-Related Graduate Courses
- Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics
- Global Health
- Health, Aging and Society
- Religious Studies
- School of Geography and Earth Sciences
- School of Nursing
- Social Work
* Please note that permission to take these courses must be obtained from the instructor in the relevant department.
Anthropology of Health Affiliates at McMaster University
Ellen Amster, Jason A. Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine Associate Professor, Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Department of History
Andrea Frolic, Director, Office of Clinical and Organizational Ethics Hamilton Health Sciences
Karen Trollope-Kumar, Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Family Medicine
Theses awarded in the Anthropology of Health
2020 The Intersection of Food Insecurity, Gestational Diabetes, and Mental Health Conditions: Examining Pregnancy From a Biocultural Perspective
2017 “If Not Me, Then Who?” The Narratives of Medical Aid in Dying (MAiD) Providers and Supporters Around Their Professional Identity and Role in MAiD
2017 “If they fund people with good food, maybe they don’t end up on the medical end of things…”: Food Insecurity and Type 2 Diabetes among People Receiving Food Assistance in Halton Region, Ontario
2012 Patient Perceptions and the Path Less Travelled? A Review of the Literature on Alternative Cancer Treatments
2011 Cultivating Change: Building on Emergency Food by Incorporating Fresh, Local Produce into Hamilton’s Food Banks to Overcome the Good Food Gap
2010 “Don’t Reject Me:” Directed and Non-Directed Living Organ Donor Narratives and the Construction of the Organ Donation and Transplantation Process as a Meaningful Experience
2010 Child Feeding Practices, Authoritative Knowledge, and Medication of Social Support Networks Among New Canadian Mothers Living in Hamilton, ON.
2021 Be Like the Running Water: Exploring the Intersections of Health and Water Security with Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation
2019 On the Margins of Care: Women and HIV in Atlantic Canada
Wallace, Lauren J.
2016 Making Modern Families: Family Size and Family Planning in Northern Ghana
2016 Thwarting the silent thief: Informing nutrition-based osteoporosis prevention education for Canadian young adults
2014 Diaspora Health Literacy: reclaiming and restoring Nibwaakaawin (wisdom) and mending broken hearts.
2014 Trophies and Talismans: The Traffic of Human Remains
Pace, Jessica E.
2013 Meanings of Memory: Understanding Aging and Dementia in First Nations Communities on Manitoulin Island, Ontario
Battles, Heather T.
2013 Examining Mortality Patterns in the Epidemic Emergence of Poliomyelitis in Southern Ontario, Canada (1900-1937)
2013 “Never Say DIE!” An Ethnographic Epidemiology of Helicobacter pylori Infection and Risk Perceptions in Aklavik, NWT
2011 Colombian Refugee Migrant Experiences of Health and Social Services in Ottawa, Canada: Navigating Landscapes of Language and Memory
Cowall, Emily S.
2011 Puvaluqatatiluta, When We Had Tuberculosis: St. Luke’s Mission Hospital and the Inuit of the Cumberland Sound Region, 1930–1972