Medical Anthropology, STS, Health and the Environment

Pamela J. Stewart

Dr. Pamela J. Stewart (Strathern) is a research scholar with experience of working and living in the Pacific (special focus on Papua New Guinea), Asia (focused on Taiwan), and Europe (focused on Scotland and Ireland, also on the European Union).  Together with Prof. Andrew Strathern, over 50 books and hundreds of articles have been published demonstrating their broad interests in global issues, utilizing their cross-cultural linguistic skills, a powerful comparative and interdisciplinary approach, and an engaged ethnographic gaze.  Current research and writing is on the topics of Political Peace-making and Global Disaster Anthropology Studies.  

Research Description

Richard Scaglion

Richard Scaglion is a four-field anthropologist who specializes in the study of the Pacific Islands and has developing interests in Latin America. He is particularly interested in human migration and mobility in Oceania, in people’s relationships with their natural environments, and in the growth of social complexity. His applied work has involved the anthropology of law and sustainable development in island nations. He has a special relationship with the Abelam people of Papua New Guinea, with whom he has conducted long-term field research beginning in 1974.

Research Description

Professor Scaglion collaborates in a broad range of interdisciplinary projects aimed at unraveling questions about human adaptation in the Pacific Islands and beyond. An ongoing interest is in the prehistory, history, social development and contemporary life of the Abelam people of Papua New Guinea. Another recent project involves the dispersal of the sweet potato, a new world cultivar, throughout the Pacific Islands. This research has led him to consider the possibility of pre-Columbian human contact between Polynesia and South America, and has resulted in several new research projects in Ecuador. And recently he has worked collaboratively to produce a monograph about the Polynesian outliers, a group of small islands that lie outside the Polynesian triangle, to examine their relationships with their neighbors and with ancient Polynesia.

The Abelam People

Famous for their artwork and for their majestic, towering spirit houses that dominate village skylines, the Abelam people are also well-known for growing and exchanging huge ceremonial yams that often exceed 3 meters (10 feet) in length. Dr. Scaglion has written about how yam beliefs act to organize and synchronize many aspects of Abelam life, and about how food is used in non-nutritive, symbolic and expressive ways.

Abelam spirit house or temple in which many ritual activities take place.

Like many other peoples of New Guinea, the Abelam traditionally have an egalitarian social organization, lacking formal political offices and social hierarchies. How do they maintain social order with no police, courts, judges or jails? They have very rich ceremonial and social lives.  How do they organize their activities without formal political or religious leaders?

During elaborate male initiation ceremonies, costumed dancers with towering headdresses adorned with colorful feathers perform on the ceremonial ground in front of the temples.

Abelam “big man,” a political figure who leads by influence but has no formal authority.

In some parts of the Pacific islands, most notably in eastern Polynesia, there are complex chiefdoms with formal leaders who orchestrate public works. How and why did these chiefdoms arise? Why didn’t they develop in the mountains of New Guinea, which has dense populations based on agricultural intensification and other characteristics generally associated with the growth of social differentiation?

Dr. Scaglion has examined these and other questions in over forty years of work with the Abelam people. He has described their conflict management techniques in his PhD thesis, studied their social organization, worked on legal development projects to establish Village Courts (which blend together introduced and customary legal systems) in their territory, and has assisted in their efforts to achieve sustainable economic development.

Diffusion of the Sweet Potato in the Pacific Islands

The sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) was important in many agricultural systems throughout the Pacific Islands long before Europeans arrived. Yet botanists have established that the cultivar was first domesticated in the New World, probably in South America.  How and when did it arrive in the Pacific Islands? Archaeological research indicates the presence of sweet potatoes in central Polynesia more than 1,000 years ago, and linguistic evidence suggests a human-mediated introduction. The word kumara is used throughout the Pacific islands and also in parts of South America, suggesting the introduction of the sweet potato into the Pacific could have been effected by Polynesian voyagers who sailed to the west coast of South America, collected the tuber, and brought it back to Polynesia. From there it may have spread more widely throughout the Pacific. Currently, DNA fingerprinting techniques are being applied to sweet potato samples to test hypotheses about the spread of sweet potatoes in Oceania and the influence of European-era introductions on modern diversity. The movement of sweet potatoes throughout the Pacific can teach us much about human migration and mobility in Oceania.

The Polynesian Outliers

Outside of Polynesia, in areas commonly designated Micronesia and Melanesia, lie about two dozen islands, most of them small and widely separated, whose inhabitants speak Polynesian languages and share other characteristics with triangle Polynesians. These islands are collectively termed the Polynesian outliers. While the great Polynesian centers endured major disruptions before trained observers had an opportunity to record their lifeways, many of the outliers, owing mainly to their remote locations, experienced much less social change, making them particularly interesting for anthropologists, and critical for the comparative study of Polynesia. Who are these peoples? Where did they originate, and how did they come to settle in these remote islands? What is their relationship to the better-known Polynesian societies? Can they, in some way, be thought of as representing Polynesian society before it became permanently altered by contact with Europeans? Dr. Scaglion has collaborated with many anthropologists who have worked in these islands to produce a new volume exploring these and other questions and to provide the first synthetic, comparative treatment of the Polynesian outliers. [Figure 6] The settlement and development of these remote outposts of Polynesia can also teach us much about human migration and mobility in Oceania.

Feinberg, Richard and Richard Scaglion (eds.) Polynesian Outliers: The State of the Art. Ethnology Monographs No. 21, 2012.


Professor Scaglion is no longer teaching courses.

Survey Courses

Introduction to Cultural Anthropology

Anthropology is the study of humanity through time and across the globe. Cultural anthropology concentrates on the comparative analysis of living and recent human societies. By examining the behavior and customs of peoples throughout the world, this course considers what it means to be human. We investigate patterns of language and learning, marriage and family organization, warfare and violence, political and economic systems, beliefs and ritual life, etc., of people throughout the world, and compare them with social patterns in the United States. We also explore themes that unite contemporary peoples in a transnational, globalizing world.

Cultures of the Pacific

The South Pacific has a certain romantic appeal in popular imagination: swaying palm trees, mild tropical breezes, unspoiled, uninhibited people. Is this true? What are the people of this region really like? How do they feel about these popular images of themselves? What can we learn about human nature by studying the cultures of the South Pacific?

This class uses information about the peoples and cultures of Oceania as a vehicle for exploring basic anthropological ideas and concepts. In examining the customs of traditional Pacific peoples, we probe the ranges of human diversity, and by comparing these with very different American social patterns, we increase our understanding of what it means to be human. Students in this class also gain a greater appreciation of anthropology as a profession as they read firsthand the "field experiences" of several anthropologists.

The course treats both the traditional and contemporary cultures of the three major areas of the Pacific: Polynesia, Melanesia and Micronesia. It includes a geographical and historical introduction to Oceania as well as an examination of its contemporary social and political status.

Undergraduate Seminar

Anthropological Theory

This course is an overview of the major social theories and debates that stimulate and inform anthropological analysis. We  investigate a range of theoretical directions in anthropology such as social evolution, historical particularism, functionalism, cultural ecology, ethnoscience and cognitive approaches, symbolic anthropology and postmodernism; and topics such as culture, social change, structure, agency, subjectivity, power, and the politics of representation. Requirements center around a close critical reading of primary texts in the history of anthropological thinking that are collected together in Anthropological Theory by McGee and Warms. The course provides an opportunity for students to learn about the development of central theoretical issues and assumptions in anthropology, gain familiarity with key writings of the major historical figures, understand essential aspects of the major theoretical paradigms that have inspired the discipline together with their historical contexts, and expand their critical thinking skills through evaluation of the strengths and weaknesses of different theoretical paradigms. Because contemporary anthropological theory is built upon earlier works, students are introduced both to the history of ideas and to current directions.

Graduate Seminars

Anthropology and Ecology

The course provides an overview of Ecological Anthropology tailored towards the interests of students who enroll. Ecological Anthropology focuses on the complex relations between people and their environments. It explores how culture influences the dynamic interactions between human populations and the ecosystems in their habitats through time. Ecological Anthropology is a relatively new field, having developed mainly since the 1950s. It is now a recognized topical specialization that crosscuts the traditional subfields of anthropology with its own separate unit within the American Anthropological Association called the Anthropology and Environment Section.

Special Topics in Pacific Islands Studies

The course uses the cultures of the Pacific Islands (including Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Australia) as a framework for examining problems of general anthropological interest tailored to the interests of the students in the course. These may include such issues as the contributions of Pacific ethnology to anthropological theory; the interrelationships between people and the natural environment; the nature of gender; the origins of agriculture, the nature and development of social stratification, trade and exchange, and the nature of prestige-based economies; development issues such as health care delivery and educational services in a globalizing world, etc. The course will include an ethnographic survey of the Pacific area and an examination of contemporary problems in the region.

Pacific Prehistory

The course provides a basic survey of the prehistory of the Pacific Islands including an investigation of how they were settled, but its primary purpose is to use the cultures of the Pacific Islands (including Polynesia, Melanesia, Micronesia, and Australia) as a framework for examining problems of general interest to both prehistorians and ethnographers.  These may include such issues as the origins of agriculture, the nature and development of social stratification, the interrelationships between people and the natural environment, trade and exchange, the nature of prestige-based economies, etc.  These and other issues will be explored through lectures, class discussions, and readings

Margaret Judd

Margaret Judd is a bioarchaeologist who received her PhD from the University of Alberta (2000), following an MSc from the University of Bradford (1994) and BA from Wilfrid Laurier University (1993). She was Special Collections Curator in the Department of Ancient Egypt & Sudan at The British Museum before coming to the University of Pittsburgh in 2004. She has worked extensively in Jordan and northern Sudan, in addition to Russia, Egypt, Italy and Canada.

Her research focuses on the shaping, maintenance and destruction of the human body, particularly the bodies of marginalized people, in response to sociocultural and resource stress. Her current project, Multi-resource subsistence among ancient Jordanian pastoralists and townsfolk: health, diet and paleoethnobiology, will use bioarchaeological evidence to support a multi-resource nomadism model for historical Jordanian pastoralists.


Forensic Anthropology: An Introduction 

Forensic anthropology integrates several areas of anthropology, notably human skeletal analysis, taphonomy and archaeology within a medicolegal context. Students will acquire a basic knowledge of human osteology and analytical methods required to develop an osteobiographical profile of the deceased (e.g., age at death, biological sex, stature, ancestry). Student will be introduced to basic methods in discovery, excavation, recording and contextual interpretation of human remains in a forensic context. Finally, we will examine activity markers, trauma patterns and common pathological conditions visible on the skeleton that aid in identification.


Bioarchaeology emphasizes theoretical issues of social archaeology and includes labs to illustrate basic recording methods needed to collect the required data to develop problem-oriented research. The human skeleton provides the most direct and unchallenged evidence for an individual’s past behavior as the skeleton is plastic in its response to stress, much the same as a society responds to social and environmental stress. While the artifacts, architecture and features recovered from an excavation leave a cultural imprint on the landscape, so too does culture and behavior leave an impression on the deceased. The individual is not just a biological shell to be cleaved from its cultural context, but rather forms a social package contingent upon culture during life and in death. We will examine social change and behavior from the perspective of the deceased within geographically diverse funerary contexts. We will evaluate factors that may influence the funerary context, such as differential burial practices and taphonomy. We will examine traditional labels to explore the topics of gender, biological vs. chronological age, and life course thresholds. 


Paleopathology is the study of disease and its process among ancient peoples using primary evidence from human skeletal remains that considers skeletal expressions, origins and social conditions of disease epidemiology. Additional lines of inquiry draw on evidence from archaeological, ethnographical, clinical, and historical sources to aid in our interpretation. In this course you will learn how to recognize abnormal bone, differentiate between disease processes, describe abnormal bone changes, evaluate recording methods, and investigate the epidemiological history of various disease processes. The impact of disease upon the individual and ancient societies will be considered throughout the course and in student seminars. The combined lecture-lab format provides a comprehensive overview of common skeletal pathological processes as well as experience with the methods used in recording the pathology of skeletal remains.

Human Skeletal Analysis

Make no bones about it--the human skeleton provides a range of information about the individual, such as their biological sex, activity level and health. The extraction of this information rests on the identification of each skeletal element. We will identify all bones of the adult skeleton, their unique features and morphological variability, and introduce basic methods used to estimate the individual’s profile (age at death, biological sex, stature). This course is essential for students considering anthropological careers in forensic anthropology, bioarchaeology and paleontology, as well as students pursuing careers in health sciences, biomechanics and biology. The integrated lecture and laboratory format gives students valuable laboratory experience in human skeletal biology and practical experience with the methods used in the identification and analysis of human skeletal remains.

Advanced Skeletal Analysis

This course is a preprofessional seminar-lab course that simulates the research process though multi-communication skills, and provides the student with an in-depth understanding of the skeletal features used to develop the osteobiographic profile (age, sex, stature, ancestry, handedness) of an individual. This analysis is essential for forensic identification and forms the basis for the reconstruction of ancient individuals and their lifeways. Each student select some aspect of skeletal analysis and present an overview of the bone biology, the history of the analytical methods, the problems and advantages of each method, modifications that others have made to address these issues, and the current state of knowledge. In the past, some students have proposed new methods of analysis. This will be complemented by a lab exercise designed by the student that will provide data for interobserver analysis of various techniques. The results of this lab will be presented as a poster conference at the end of the term. Prior osteological experience is required.


Kathleen Musante

Kathleen Musante is a cultural anthropologist whose main research interests are in medical anthropology and the anthropology of food and nutrition. She draws on perspectives from both bio-cultural anthropology and political economy. She has a secondary appointment in the Department of Behavioral and Community Health Sciences in the Graduate School of Public Health, and currently serves as the Director of the Center for Latin American Studies.

In particular she has interests in the health and nutrition impacts of economic and agricultural development policies in Latin America; child survival and adult health in developing countries; nutrition and health of older adults and youth in rural settings in the United States; and health decision making in pluralistic settings. She is a qualitative methodologist and a specialist in the use of participant observation in ethnographic research.

She has carried out research in Mexico, Honduras, Brazil, Ecuador, and Kentucky.

Research Description

Her current research examines the health and nutrition of indigenous peoples of the Ecuadorian Amazon, and the impact of 20 years of income generating projects for women on the social power of women and the welfare of their children in Manabí Province, Ecuador.



Anthropology of Food

Undergraduate Seminar. This course will examine the social ecology of human nutrition. It will apply the concepts and principles of anthropology to the study of human diet and nutrition. Discussions will focus on the origins of the human diet; human dietary adaptation to diverse ecological and technological situations; behavioral and ecological factors that influence diet in technologically simple, modernizing and contemporary societies; and social/cultural meanings and implications of food behaviors.

Medical Anthropology 2

This course offers a survey of selected topics in contemporary medical anthropology. Topics to be covered may include cross-cultural and biocultural approaches to the study of sickness and healing, critical approaches to the study of biomedicine, interpretive approaches to ethnomedical systems, meaning-centered approaches to understanding the experience of suffering and pain, and the social construction of illness and healing. Special topics investigated include the anthropology of the body and sexuality, and physician-patient communication. Other topics can be added in accordance with student interests.



Nicole Constable

Nicole Constable received her PhD from the University of California, Berkeley in 1989.  She is a sociocultural anthropologist whose primary research focus is gendered migration in and from Asia. She is also very interested in different modes of ethnographic and anthropological writing.  Her main geographical research areas are Hong Kong, China, the Philippines, Indonesia and Singapore. Her topical interests include migration and mobilities; intimate labor; gender and sexuality; and precarious citizenship and the state.

She is former Associate Dean of Graduate Studies and Research in the Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, and former Director of the Asian Studies Center at the University of Pittsburgh. She was the J Y Pillay Global-Asia Professor of Social Sciences at Yale-NUS College in Singapore. She especially enjoys teaching about the poetics and politics of ethnographic writing, about gender and sexuality in East Asia, and about global intimacies. She has twice taught and co-directed Pitt in the Himalayas.

Research Description

Nicole Constable’s most recent ethnographic monographs reflect her interest and expertise in gender and migration. These include Romance on a Global Stage: Pen Pals, Virtual Ethnography, and ‘Mail Order’ Marriages (2003), a political-economic examination of love, romance, and cross-border courtships between U.S. men and Asian women. This book serves as a well-informed ethnographic critique of popular misrepresentations of “mail order brides.” Maid to Order in Hong Kong: Stories of Migrant Workers (2nd ed., 2007) examines the various forms of power and discipline that influence the daily experiences of Filipino and Indonesian migrant domestic workers in Hong Kong, and their active forms of protest and subtle forms of resistance. Following this book, she has written several articles about migrant worker activism and protest. Her latest book, Born Out of Place: Migrant Mothers and the Politics of International Labor (2014), builds on her work among women migrant workers in Hong Kong, and focuses on those who become mothers, despite local pressures to be “just workers.” This book provides insight into global problems of mobility, family, and citizenship and points to the consequences, creative responses, melodramas, and tragedies of labor and migration policies. Following this project, Dr. Constable’s recent articles focus on human trafficking, and on temporary and precarious labor and what can be considered queer or nonnormative transnational family formations.

 Dr. Constable has been working on a new book about passports and precarious migration. Passports are fascinating in and of themselves, but even more so because they provide a unique entry point from which to understand the many challenges faced by migrant workers, especially after their government institutes a new biometric passport system and aims to uncover “fake passport data.” Based largely on ethnographic research among Indonesian migrant workers, consular officials and others in Hong Kong, the book also traces the stories and histories of “real but fake” (aspal) Indonesian passports back to Indonesia, and across temporalities and scales. “Entanglements” provide the main analytical framework from which to analyze and criticize the oversimplified binaries associated with passports (e.g., real and fake, care and control), with migration (e.g., migrant and citizen, free and unfree), and with ethnography (e.g., ethnographer and interlocutor, research and researched). The book is entitled Passport Entanglements: Protection, Care and Precarious Migrations and will come out later in 2022 with University of California Press. 


Anthropology 1750 Undergraduate Seminar: Writing Culture

This class introduces several different anthropological and ethnographic writing styles and theoretical approaches while encouraging you to think about what anthropology can contribute to our understanding and appreciation of human diversity in the world today. In this class you will “try on” different writing styles and theoretical approaches. Throughout the class we will examine the poetics (writing style) and politics (forms of power) associated with different approaches and types of ethnographic writing.

Anthropology 1734 Undergraduate Seminar: Gender in East Asia

This anthropology undergraduate seminar focuses on gender and sexuality in contemporary East Asia, particularly in China, Japan, and South Korea (also touching on Hong Kong and Taiwan). The course is comparative, as we examine differences and continuities within and between these regions. Themes covered vary according to recent research trends, the availability of scholarly materials, and key issues in each region. Topics we will cover include: orientalism in relation to femininity and masculinity in East Asia; economic change and family roles; labor migration; heteronormativity and queerness; sexuality, work, and class; agency and resistance.

Anthropology 2782 Global Intimacies: Sex, Marriage, and Reproductive Labors

This graduate seminar explores theoretical and ethnographic approaches to global intimacies, particularly intimate and reproductive labor such as domestic work, sex work, surrogacy, medical tourism, transgender surgeries, cross-border marriages, and others. Readings will focus on ethnographic case studies that illustrate how global mobilities are linked to intimate relations. We will explore intersections of sex, labor, power, love and money in a globalizing world, and will examine scholarly approaches that are informed by feminism, migration studies, queer studies, postmodernism, capitalism, globalization, gender, and human trafficking. This course is particularly relevant to those with an academic interest in the intimate cultural and critical politics of sex, love, labor, and gendered migration within the context of global capitalism.



Constable, N. (2021) “Continual Arrival and the Longue Durée: Emplacement as Activism among Migrant Workers in Hong Kong.” Migration Studies DOI:10.1093/migration/mnab034.

Constable, N. (2021)  “Gender and Generational Issues in an Age of Migration” In: Migration, Gender, and The Politics of Belonging: The Case of Korean Diaspora, eds. Dohye Kim, Minjung Kim, Seoul, Korea: is Dongnyok Publishing (동녘출판사) pp. 23-51. 

Constable, N. (2021) “Migrant Mothers, Rejected Refugees and Excluded-Belonging in Hong Kong.” Population, Space and Place DOI:10.1002/psp.2475.      

Constable, N. (2020) “Afterword: Rethinking Ethnographic Entanglements of Care and Control.” Ethnos 85:2, 327-334,

Constable, N. (2019) “Maids, Mistresses, and Wives: Rethinking Kinship and the Domestic Sphere in Twenty-first Century Hong Kong.” Cambridge Handbook for the Anthropology of Kinship, Cambridge University Press.

Constable, N. (2019) “Tales of Two Cities: Legislating Pregnancy and Marriage among Foreign Domestic Workers in Singapore and Hong Kong.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies.

Constable, N. (2018) “Temporary Intimacies, Incipient Transnationalism, and Failed Cross-Border Marriages.”  In: Intimate Mobilities: Sexual Economies, Marriage and Migration in a Disparate World. C. Groes and N. Fernandez, eds. NY: Berghahn. Pp. 52-73.   

Constable, N. (2018) “Assemblages and Affect: Migrant Labour and the Varieties of Absent Children,” Global Networks, 18(1): 168-185. (Global Assemblages, absent Children, queer families, precarity, migrant mothers, adoption and fostering)

Constable, N. (2017) “Familial Migration Strategies and the Cultural Logics of Desire: a case of Asian-U.S. Correspondence Marriages” Anthropology of this Century 20 (love, desire, global Intimacies, cross border marriage, matchmaking)

Constable, N (2016) “Reproductive Labor at the Intersection of Three Intimate Industries: Domestic Work, Sex Tourism, and Adoption,” Positions: Asia Critique, 24(1):45-69. (surplus labor, migrant workers, adoption, sex work, unpaid labor)

Constable, N. (2016) “Discipline, Control, and the Ins and Outs of Prison for Migrant Overstayers in Hong Kong,” Migration, Mobility, and Displacement, 20(1):58-72. (assemblages, incarceration, ssylum seekers, migrant workers, networks, disciplinary spaces)

Constable, N (2015) “Migrant Motherhood, ‘Failed Migration’, and the Gendered Risks of Precarious Labour,” TRaNS: Trans-Regional and -National Studies of Southeast Asia, 3(1):135-151. (precarious labor, temporary migration, single mothers, Hong Kong, Indonesia)

Constable, N. (2014) Born Out of Place: Migrant Mothers and the Politics of International Labor, Berkeley: University of California Press. (migration, labor, precarity, children, citizenship, undocumented migration, reproductive labor, gender, sexuality, Indonesians, Filipinos, Hong Kong.

Constable, N. (2013) Migrant Workers, Legal Tactics, and Fragile Family Formation in Hong Kong. Oñati Socio-Legal Series, 3 (6), 1004-1022.

Constable, N. (2011) Editor. Migrant Domestic Workers in Asia: Distant Divides and Intimate Connections, New York: Routledge Press. [Precarious workers, migrant labor, activism, domestic Workers, Inter-Asian connections, global networks, reproductive labor]

Constable, N. (2007 [1997]) Maid to Order in Hong Kong: Stories of Migrant Workers (second edition), Ithaca: Cornell University Press. [Domestic workers, Hong Kong, migrant workers, gender, labor discipline, protest and activism, labor migration]

Constable, N. (2005) Cross-Border Marriages: Gender and Mobility in Transnational Asia, Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press. (Cross-border marriage, transnationalism, matchmaking, marriage-scapes, gender, marriage brokers, global hypergamy)

Constable, N. (2003) Romance on a Global Stage: Pen Pals, Virtual Ethnography, and ‘Mail Order’ Marriages, Berkeley: University of California Press. (Global intimacies, marriage migration, cross-border marriages, internet ethnography)

1996/2005 (editor) Guest People:  Hakka Identity in China and Abroad.  Seattle:  University of Washington Press.  (Second edition, paperback, Spring 2005)

Constable, N. (1994) Christian Souls and Chinese Spirits: A Hakka Community in Hong Kong. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press.