Global Health Academy

New Edinburgh Centre for Medical Anthropology (EdCMA)

On January 15th the new Edinburgh Centre for Medical Anthropology (EdCMA) will be launched - a world leading academic unit dedicated to the anthropological study of the body, health, and medicine.


Medical Anthropology, a subfield of social anthropology, applies anthropological ideas, comparative theories and methodologies to the study of global health problems.

With the increasing move towards interdisciplinary teams and research medical anthropology has far more to offer than just the application of our particular qualitative research methods. This field occupies a unique niche in the rapidly growing group of social sciences that investigates health and illness. Many of us draw on years of expertise and fieldwork in the Global South or with poor or otherwise marginal populations. We thus have in-depth knowledge of environments where biomedical models of illness and formal healthcare systems encounter major problems. Moreover, the field of global health has increasingly recognized that many of the factors that influence health (e.g. lifestyle, poverty, violence, sexual behaviour, etc.) occur outside of formal care.

Drawing on long term ethnography, anthropologists are often in a unique position to contribute insights into how daily practices and social relationships affect well being, health and access to treatment. To be truly interdisciplinary, and to maintain its identity and ways of seeing the world, Medical Anthropology thus needs to retain its strong disciplinary base. While grounded in social anthropology, the Centre is open to all disciplines focusing on health related issues.

We currently have a wide range of topical and regional expertise, which includes anthropology as applied to: mental health, global health, infectious disease, hospitals and health development bureaucracies, medical anthropology and STS, pharmaceuticals, functional foods, medical enhancement technologies, traditional and alternative healing, gender and reproduction, vaccines and laboratories, migration and health, environmental health and human-animal relationships. Our regional expertise lies in South Asia, North, Central and South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Melanesia.

We are delighted to launch the Edinburgh Centre for Medical Anthropology (EdCMA), an initiative that brings together one of the largest groupings of medical anthropologists in Europe. As leading researchers in their field, these scholars apply anthropological ideas and research to some of the worlds most pressing health issues. Combined with the work of a number of outstanding PhD students, the centre will act as a hub for sharing, debate and discussion with medical, public health, social scientists and humanities scholars focusing on well being, health and illness

Professor Ian Harper and Dr Lucy LoweDirector and Deputy Director of EdCMA


General membership of the Centre is open to all members of staff at the University of Edinburgh with research interests in health, illness, and medicine. Membership of PhD students and post-docs who are working on health-topics from an anthropological or other social science perspective are strongly encouraged. Members can include all colleagues whose work is related to medical anthropology, or whose research and practice may be informed by this.