Medical and biocultural anthropology, infectious disease, death and dying, India, United States

Carnegie 207d



Fall 2024 Courses
Defense Against the Dark Arts
Medical Anthropology

Spring 2024 Courses
General Anthropology
Field Methods and Research Design
Anthropology of Death and Dying

I am a medical anthropologist and former registered nurse. My research examines the social dimensions of infectious diseases, ritual healing practices, and caregiving at the end of life. I conducted major field research in India, and I have since been working on smaller projects in Tanzania, Thailand, and the United States. Prior to becoming an academic, my clinical nursing experience was in neuro-intensive care, brain injury rehabilitation, and hospice. I also worked a year in a viral genetics laboratory studying translational regulation in bacteriophages.  All of this has been driven by my passion for exploring the intersections between the cultural and biological aspects of human experience and applying these findings to important health and social problems.


Aghor Medicine: Pollution, Death and Healing in Northern India – University of California Press. This book concerns the ritual healing practices of a heterodox religious group known as the Aghori, their beliefs concerning mortality and prejudice, and their therapeutic interactions with patients afflicted with socially stigmatizing diseases such as leprosy (Hansen’s disease, or HD).  This book was awarded the 2008 Wellcome Medal by the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland.

Emerging Infections: Three Epidemiological Transitions from Prehistory to the Present – Oxford University Press.  I am lead author of this interdisciplinary, multi-authored book, scheduled to be released in January 2024.  It explains how recent increases in new, virulent, and drug-resistant infections have resulted from human practices that can be traced back to the Neolithic. This book is a retitled, highly revised, and greatly expanded second edition of An Unnatural History of Emerging Infections (2013). 

Recent Articles:

Future pandemics will have the same human causes as ancient outbreaks − lessons from anthropology can help prevent them

Selected Courses:

Anth 239 – Medical Anthropology

Anth 241 – Anthropology of Death and Dying

Anth 248 – Defense Against the Dark Arts

Anth 294 – World Healing Traditions

Anth 380 – Stigma and Disabilities

Anth 381 – Emerging Infectious Diseases


Ph.D. Anthropology (2003) Emory University.

M.A. Anthropology (1998) Emory University.

B.S, Nursing (1992) Johns Hopkins University.

B.A.  Anthropology (1990) University of Colorado, Boulder.

Defense Against the Dark Arts

Ron Barrett co-taught this unconventional anthropology/religion class that drew an enthusiastic crowd of students. More