Engaged and Community-Based Anthropology

A unique strength of our program in Medical Anthropology is its engaged and community-based approach. In our research, teaching, and creative work, we engage with students, communities, and with pressing local and global issues.

Engaging with Students

Our faculty provide students with opportunities that regularly transcend the classroom: we involve students in research, we teach them in field schools, and we collaborate with students in professional presentations and workshops at conferences. This is the unique advantage of a terminal MA program.

Below, we highlight some of the ways that we have involved students in our research and creative projects in the past five years.

  • Sarah Horton conducted interviews with an MA student in Tijuana on Anglo and Mexican Americans’ cross-border healthcare seeking strategies; the two co-authored an article on their research in Social Science & Medicine in 2011. Dr. Horton also took a student to California’s Central Valley to conduct research on self-care practices of Mexican migrant farmworkers and co-authored an article with her in Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health in 2012. Currently, she is directing a team of students conducting phone interviews with workers’ compensation attorneys in California on the factors that suppress migrant farmworkers’ claims. Students presented on their research projects for her course, “Migrant Health,” in two different professional conferences.
  • Steve Koester conducted fieldwork with an MA student in St. Vincent examining the effect of neoliberal trade reform, and specifically the country’s replacement of bananas with marijuana as its primary source of foreign exchange. Dr. Koester is working with students examining health issues among the city’s homeless and drug using populations. He recently worked with students on projects examining how policing strategies influence injection settings, and on a contract with Denver Public Health examining factors related to fatal overdose. Dr. Koester is always looking for students interested in volunteering with the Harm Reduction Action Center, a community center and syringe exchange program for people who inject drugs (PWID).
  • Marty Otañez - Students in Anthropology and other fields collaborate with Marty in the performance of digital storytelling workshops with community members. Themes of workshops focus on smoking, cancer, hepatitis C and reproductive rights among Latinas and other disenfranchised communities. In partnership with students and community members, Marty has organized and performed dozens of presentations, panels, workshops and screenings at professional conferences that advocate for policy-influential digital media. He is the founder of the Coalition for Excellence in Digital Storytelling.

Get a sense of career opportunities in Anthropology.

Engaging with the Community

Our faculty’s research, teaching, and creative work is distinguished by its engagement with Denver’s vibrant health care sector as well as the multiple nonprofits and centers that serve its multi-ethnic, marginalized populations. We teach two classes that actively involve students in engaged and community-based participatory research. These include: ANTH 4300/5300, “Migrant Health,” and ANTH 4230/5230, “Anthropology and Community-Based Participatory Research.”

Our research, teaching, and creative work engages with the following healthcare institutions, nonprofits, and advocacy groups in Denver and beyond:

Engaging with Pressing Local and Global Issues

Our faculty is involved in conducting applied research on pressing local and global issues related to Medical Anthropology. Here is a sample of some of our engaged and community-based work:

  • Sarah Horton is currently writing a book about the way that the criminalization of undocumented migrants affects the labor rights of migrant farmworkers in central California. She is also working with migrant farmworkers to help dispel myths of their ineligibility for workers’ compensation insurance.
  • Steve Koester work with colleagues on NIH funded studies examining Hepatitis C transmission among injection drug users, women’s roles in the methamphetamine economy, opioid overdose prevention, and the impact of city ordinances on the health and well-being of homeless people. He also has a long-term interest in economic development issues in the Caribbean.  He currently works on issues related to drug use and homelessness and collaborates with the Harm Reduction Action Center, Denver Health, Denver Public Health (formerly Denver Environmental Health) and Kaiser Permanente. He is also working with Denver Homeless Outloud, a homeless activist organization, on a survey of the effects of policing on homeless people's health.
  • Marty Otañez is collaborating with a team of students, professors, and community leaders to administer a digital storytelling research project with Latina pregnant and parenting teens. Also, he is creating a book and companion video series designed to create a platform for community members to be their own policy advocates for health equities. In 2013, he is creating a webinar series for global health policy makers concerned with human rights, corporate accountability and alternative livelihoods for tobacco farmers and farm workers in Malawi, Tanzania, Kenya, India, Argentina, and Bolivia.
  • Charles Musiba is vice-chair of a Denver-based non-profit organization “Africa School Assistance Project – ASAP”, which partners with local communities (villages and local governments) in Tanzania to build schools. ASAP holds that education, more than any other sector of development, seeds dramatic improvements in poverty reduction, gender equality, health outcomes, environmental protection, and wildlife conservation. ASAP’s KUPANDA project empowers school girls by providing them with extracurricular activities such as entrepreneurship and banking at ASAP-built dormitories. Dr. Musiba is also working with Saint Augustine University of Tanzania to develop a graduate program in anthropology, the first in East Africa. Dr. Musiba also worked with the Ngorongoro Conservation Area Authority (Department of Cultural Heritage and GeoParks) to complete the construction of a two million Euros museum at Olduvai Gorge. Dr. Musiba helped raise funds through the European Union for the museum and co-created the display. He is currently on the national Advisory Scientific Committee for the construction of a museum and educational facility at Laetoli, the site of the internationally famous 3.6 million years old hominin footprints.