Erica Prussing, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

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I am a medical anthropologist whose research examines the cultural politics of defining and addressing social inequalities in health, especially within indigenous communities. My projects are frequently interdisciplinary, and emphasize combining anthropology with public health (especially through “cultural epidemiology,” which aims to culturally situate both the causes of health problems and the production of epidemiological knowledge).

Topics of recent projects in Native North America include promoting sobriety, and understanding historical trauma as a conceptual framework for contemporary mental health.  Other recent work examines complementary/alternative medicine use by parents for children with developmental disabilities, and projects to address youth violence and perinatal HIV transmission.

My major ethnographic project to date considers how women pursue sobriety in the Northern Cheyenne community in southeastern Montana, and documents the persistence of discursive and structural barriers to tribal control over local health services. Findings demonstrate how, in the absence of full institutional control, services to support sobriety are often “indigenized” in a grass-roots fashion. For example, younger generations of Northern Cheyenne women are creatively transforming the prevalent “Twelve Steps” of Alcoholics Anonymous into a forum for social commentary shaped by localized identity politics.

My current projects integrate insights from science & technology studies and postcolonial studies with medical anthropology, to examine how epidemiological knowledge is produced and applied in efforts to promote greater social justice in health. For example, I am undertaking a multi-sited, international study of how indigenous communities are engaging and/or developing new forms of epidemiology in their efforts to alleviate disparities in health.  I am also completing a cultural analysis of both past and present efforts to define and address “racial” disparities in infant mortality in American epidemiology.

Research Interests

  • Critical Medical and Psychological Anthropology
  • Cultural Epidemiology
  • Science Studies
  • Feminist Anthropology
  • Alcohol and Drug Studies
  • Native North America

Courses Taught

  • ANTH:1101 Cultural Anthropology
  • ANTH:2164 Culture & Healing Future Health Care
  • ANTH:2165 Native Peoples of North America
  • ANTH:3102 Medical Anthropology
  • ANTH:3109 Culture, Mind, and Mental Health
  • ANTH:3110 Health of Indigenous Peoples
  • ANTH:4140 Feminist Activism and Global Health
  • ANTH:4995 Honors Research Seminar
  • ANTH:6115 Ethnographic Field Methods
  • ANTH:6141 Medical Anthropology & Social Theory
  • ANTH:6310 Anthropology of Science, Technology & Gender

Affiliations and Links

Research areas
  • Sociocultural Anthropology
  • Feminist Anthropology
  • Medical Anthropology
Erica Prussing
Ph.D., University of California-San Diego, 1999
Contact Information

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