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Laura A. Meek(She/Her/Hers or They/Them/Theirs)
AnthropologyOffice: LM4 619
Graduate student supervisor
Pharmaceuticals; Counterfeits; Embodiment; Sensoriums; Feminist Science and Technology Studies; Medical Anthropology; Leprosy; Critical Global Health; Ontological Politics; Dreams; Temporality; Tanzania; East Africa; Indian Ocean Worlds; Hong Kong; Fugitivity; Black Studies; African Studies; Postcolonial Theory; Ethnography
Courses & Teaching
I teach courses on African and Africana studies; global health; embodiment and the anthropology of the body; feminist, anti-racist, and decolonial science and technology studies; and cultural and medical anthropology. Courses currently offered at UBC include:
• ANTH 100: Introduction to Cultural Anthropology;
• ANTH 227: Introduction to Medical Anthropology;
• ANTH 330: Psychological Distress, Mental Health, and Well-being;
• ANTH 354: Imagining Africa Otherwise;
• ANTH 400: History of Anthropology;
• ANTH 429: Global Health and International Development.
I am a cultural and medical anthropologist whose primary research centers around counterfeit pharmaceuticals, bodily epistemologies, and the politics of healing in East Africa. I am committed—in my research, service work, and teaching—to addressing the structural inequalities that underlie processes of knowledge production. I believe that the importance of diversity in higher education is both about correcting historical and social injustices in terms of who has access to such institutions and also about amending whose knowledge counts as knowledge.
Before joining UBC in 2022, I spent three years as a faculty member in the interdisciplinary Centre for the Humanities and Medicine at the University of Hong Kong. I also held additional affiliations with the African Studies Programme and the Department of Comparative Literature. At HKU, I served as an Equal Opportunity Advisor to whom colleagues and students could report issues of discrimination and harassment. I also volunteered as a member of the Committee on Gender Equality and Diversity, working towards greater diversity, equity, and inclusion in higher education—from drafting policies requiring diversity on hiring committees and equal same-sex partner benefits to organizing trainings about sexual harassment and inclusive language use. I very much look forward to joining in efforts towards liberatory social transformation of higher education here at UBC and encourage students interested in such issues to reach out to me!
PhD, Anthropology, University of California, Davis
MA, Anthropology, University of California, Davis
MA, Women’s Studies, George Washington University
BA (Honors), Comparative Human Development, University of Chicago
Research Interests & Projects
My first project, Pharmaceuticals in Divergence: Radical Uncertainty and World-Making Tastes in Tanzania, is based on over three years of ethnographic fieldwork in the Southern Highlands of Tanzania, and focuses on the proliferation of counterfeits in local biomedical markets where an estimated 30-60% of drugs are thought to be fake. I explore the bodily epistemologies through which my interlocutors assess, decipher, and challenge biomedical claims, while also demonstrating how they transform pharmaceuticals, allowing these substances to act outside the logics of biomedicine. I approach this material through the lens of feminist, anti-racist, and postcolonial science studies, as a way to engage both conditions of radical uncertainty and world-making innovation happening in Africa today.
My second project, The Grammar of Leprosy: Temporal Politics and the Impossible Subject, develops a line of inquiry which was prompted by my discovery that the antibiotic cure for leprosy was readily available, and yet inaccessible, for my interlocutors in Tanzania in need of treatment. I am currently developing a multi-sited and interdisciplinary research project on the temporal politics of leprosy elimination campaigns across historical archives, scientific knowledge production, and global health initiatives.
Additional areas of my scholarship include: the medicinal significance of sensory qualities like taste; histories of medicine and healing across Indian Ocean worlds; dreaming as medical intervention and world-making practice; fugitivity in both Tanzania and Hong Kong; and the centrality of excrement to postcolonial power, subjection, and subjectivity.
Selected Publications & Presentations
Selected Recent Publications
2023. “Beyond the Limits: Medicine, Healing, and Medical Anthropology.” Special ‘In Conversation’ Section co-edited with Abigail H. Neely. “Introduction” co-authored with Abigail H. Neely. “Beyond the Limits: Conversation, Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, & Part V” co-authored with Abigail H. Neely, Tatiana Chudakova, Sienna R. Craig, and Casey Golomski. Medical Anthropology Quarterly.
2023. “Chakachua Pharmaceuticals and Fugitive Science.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly.
2023. “Africa Out of the Shadows: Authoritarian Anti-Imperialism, Transnational Pentecostalism, and Covid-19 ‘Conspiracy Theories’.” In Covid-19 Conspiracy Theories in Global Perspective. Peter Knight and Michael Butter, Eds. New York, NY: Routledge.
2022. “African Experiments in Health and Healing: Science from the Home and Homestead.” Science, Technology, & Human Values. Co-authored with Abigail H. Neely.
2022. “Otherwise.” Feminist Anthropology 3(2): 274-283. Special Issue: ‘Keywords: A Feminist Vocabulary.’ Co-authored with Julia Alejandra Morales Fontanilla.
2022. “Azizi: Gender, Relationality, and the Embodiment of Mawazo in Tanzania.” Anthropology and Humanism 47(1): 159-168.
2021. “Knowing Better? Epistemological Bounds in MAQ from 1975–2021.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly, Reading the Archive Series, Issue 3.
2021. “The Grammar of Leprosy: Temporal Politics and the Impossible Subject.” Medicine Anthropology Theory 8(3): 1-26. (Recipient of the Early Career Paper Award from the Medical Anthropology Europe Network and Medicine Anthropology Theory.)
2021.“Intersections of Political Power, Religion, and Public Health in Africa: Covid-19, Tanzanian President Magufuli, and Nigerian Prophet T. B. Joshua.” Somatosphere, November 12.
2021. “Contested Truths over Covid-19 in Africa: Introduction.” Somatosphere, March 17. Series co-edited & Introduction co-authored with Jia Hui Lee and Jacob Katumusiime Mwine-Kyarimpa.
2021. “The Visual Exhibition Project.” Teaching and Learning Anthropology Journal, Teaching Resources, November 16. Co-authored with Priscilla Song, Anna Iskra, and Ray Linyan Jiang.
2021. “Fugitive Science: Beer Brewing and Experiments with Pharmaceuticals in Tanzania.” Platypus, Committee for the Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Computing (CASTAC), February 16.
2020. “Bibi’s Uchungu: Eating, Bitterness, and Relationality Across Indian Ocean Worlds.” In Reimagining Indian Ocean Worlds. Smriti Srinivas, Bettina Ng’weno, and Neelima Jeychandran, Eds. Pp. 197-211. New York, NY: Routledge.
2020. “Going Viral in Hong Kong.” Anthropology News, March 3. Co-authored with Justin Haruyama and Ria Sinha.
Selected Grants & Awards
2021 MAE–MAT Early Career Paper Award, Medical Anthropology Europe Network, European Association of Social Anthropologists, and Medicine Anthropology Theory Journal
2021 Creative Ethnographic Prose Competition, 3rd Prize, Society for Humanistic Anthropology
2020 Early Career Scheme Grant & Award, Research Grants Council of Hong Kong
2020 Common Core Teaching Development Grant (with Priscilla Song), University of Hong Kong
2019 Carter G. Woodson Institute Postdoctoral Fellowship, African-American and African Studies, University of Virginia (declined)
2019 Modeling Interdisciplinary Inquiry Postdoctoral Fellowship, Humanities and Interpretive Social Sciences, Washington University in St. Louis (declined)
2018 Charles Hughes Graduate Student Paper Prize, Society for Medical Anthropology
2018 Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award (Student Nominated), University of California, Davis
2018 Bennetta Jules-Rosette Graduate Essay Award, Association for Africanist Anthropology
2018 Early Career Medical Humanities Fellowship, University of Strathclyde and Shanghai University (declined)
2017 Photography Award, American Anthropological Association
2017 Rudolf Virchow Graduate Student Award, Critical Anthropology for Global Health Caucus, Society for Medical Anthropology
2017 Reimagining Indian Ocean Worlds Mellon Research Initiative Dissertation Writing Grant
2014 Wenner-Gren Foundation Dissertation Fieldwork Grant, with additional Osmundsen Initiative funding
2013 U.S. National Science Foundation Doctoral Dissertation Research Improvement Grant, co-awarded by the Cultural Anthropology Program & the Science, Technology, and Society Program
2010 Eugene Cota-Robles Fellowship, University of California
2009 Making a Difference Award, Women’s Studies Endowment, George Washington University
2008 George Washington University Fellowship
I have professional affiliations with the African Studies Association (ASA); American Anthropological Association (AAA); American Ethnological Society (AES); Association for Africanist Anthropology (AfAA); Association for Feminist Anthropology (AFA); Canadian Anthropology Society (CASCA); CASCA Medical Anthropology Network; CASCA Network of Critical Pedagogy in Canadian Anthropology; Canadian Association of African Studies (CAAS); Hong Kong Anthropological Society (HKAS); Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland (RAI); Society for Cultural Anthropology (SCA); Society for Humanistic Anthropology (SHA); Society for Medical Anthropology (SMA); Society for Social Studies of Science (4S); and the Tanzanian Studies Association (TSA).
My leadership positions within these associations have included service as:
Elected Member of the Nominations Committee (Undesignated Seat 1) within the American Anthropological Association (2020 – present)
Elected Co-Chair of the Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) and Integrative Medicine (IM) Special Interest Group of the Society for Medical Anthropology (2018 – 2021)
Ex-Officio Member of the Communications Committee on the Executive Board of the Society for Medical Anthropology (2017 – 2021)
Co-Editor of the Society for Medical Anthropology’s Section News of Anthropology News (2017 – 2021)
2021. “Leprosy Paradox.” Interview by Teri Fitsell. The University of Hong Kong Bulletin 22(2): 26-27.
2018. “STS in Africa—Personal Careers: Laura Meek.” Interview by Angela Okune. In STS in Africa in Formation, created by Angela Okune and Aadita Chaudhury. Special Digital Exhibit: STS Across Borders, curated by Aalok Khandekar and Kim Fortun. Society for Social Studies of Science.