Elana Buch, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Elana Buch is a sociocultural and medical anthropologist studying aging, care, kinship, and inequality in the United States. I ask questions about how different ways of practicing human interdependence are connected to large scale social changes like population aging, and how these forms of interdependence generate social difference and inequality across the life course.

I am working on two new ethnographic projects which ask how older adults creatively adapt living arrangements and intimate relations to changing circumstances, foregrounding later life not as a site for success or failure but rather as a complex site of experimentation, struggle, and innovation. Remaking Home, investigates older adults living with multigenerational kin, non-kin roommates and in recreational vehicles to ask about how these kinds of household experiments respond to economic, familial and social changes in later life. In New Love in Later Life, I examine the ways that older adults’ new romantic relationships are reshaping meanings and experiences of kinship, intimacy, and interdependence in the United States.

I continue to work with collaborators develop comparative anthropological theories of care. Early work on this includes my annual review essay Anthropology of Aging and Care and more recent collaborative work theorizing the processual and contingent aspects of care.

My first book, Inequalities of Aging: Paradoxes of Independence in American Home Care (2018, NYU Press­) shows how the work that enables a growing number of older adults to age independently also generates profound social inequalities. Based on research in Chicago’s home care industry, I’ve also written about the relationships between embodiment, morality, and inequality, about the role of material household practices in shaping personhood in later life, and about troubling practices of reciprocity in paid care. Inequalities of Aging was awarded an Eileen Basker Memorial Book Prize from the Society for Medical Anthropology in 2020. 

Courses Taught 

  • ANTH:2100 Anthropology & Contemporary World Problems
  • ANTH:2102 Anthropology of Marriage and Family
  • ANTH:2181 The Anthropology of Aging
  • ANTH:3117 Using Ethnographic Methods
  • ANTH:3151 The Anthropology of the Beginnings and Ends of Life
  • ANTH: 5101 Sociocultural Anthropology Seminar
  • ANTH:6115 Ethnographic Field Methods

Research Interests

  • Sociocultural and Medical Anthropology
  • Care
  • Aging
  • Inequality
  • Kinship
  • Labor
  • Gender
  • Social Policy
  • United States
Research areas
  • Sociocultural Anthropology
  • Medical Anthropology
Elana Buch
Contact Information

241 Macbride Hall (MH)
Iowa City, IA 52242
United States