Director, Program of Medicine and the Liberal Arts
Affiliation: Medicine and the Liberal Arts
B.A., Anthropology, Biology, Lawrence University, 1998
M.A., Cultural Anthropology, University of Florida, 2001
Ph.D., Cultural Anthropology, University of Illinois-Chicago, 2006
Affiliation: Department of Anthropology; Medicine and the Liberal Arts
Research Interests: Medical anthropology; globalization & health; anthropology of reproduction; hospital ethnography; research methods; Mexico; Kenya; India
Vania Smith-Oka is a cultural and medical anthropologist who specializes on the effect of institutions (medical, economic, development) on the behavior and choices of marginalized populations, especially women. She has explored the impact of an economic development program on the reproductive lives and motherhood of indigenous women in eastern Mexico. From this research emerged her first book, Shaping the Motherhood of Indigenous Mexico (Vanderbilt, 2013). She also researched the doctor-patient relationship in a maternity ward in the city of Puebla, particularly the role of space/place, notions of social and medical risk, and quality of care. Her current research is investigating how skills, practices, and attitudes of medicine are transmitted to medical students. She is specifically addressing the process by which practices such as obstetric violence become prevalent across some societies.
She teaches a variety of health-related classes: Gender and Health; Anthropology of Reproduction; The Culture of Medicine; and a CSEM on How Doctors Think.