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This is Anthropology

This Anthropology

Priscilla Magrath
Photo for Priscilla Magrath

Affiliation: University of Arizona

Department: School of Anthropology

Location: Tucson, AZ, UNITED STATES

Biography: I am an anthropologist of health and development and an engaged scholar with over 20 years’ experience of working in international development. I have worked long term in Ghana, Lesotho, Ethiopia, Pakistan, Peru and Indonesia. My current regional focus is Indonesia where I recently completed my doctoral dissertation research on health governance under decentralization. I graduated from my PhD program in May 2016 and I am currently seeking consultancy work in Indonesia or elsewhere.

Job Type: Academic

Geographic Areas of Expertise:
South-East Asia



Interests/Specialty Areas:

Political Anthropology

I went into Anthro because: I chose Anthropology because it expanded my mind beyond the perspective of my own cultural upbringing. It opened my eyes to the possibility of viewing the world differently including such basic concepts as space and time. I learned about Anthropology while studying Natural Sciences at Cambridge University in the UK. John Pilgrim, father of my friend Anita Pilgrim, introduced me to Anthropology and to the possibility of applying Anthropology in international development work.

My latest research is: In my dissertation “Moral Landscapes of Health Governance in West Java, Indonesia” I explore how health managers in one district in Indonesia are responding to the decentralization of health services. I argue that they engage in two balancing acts. The first is between decentralization and (re)centralization and concerns the proper way to govern. The second is a balancing act of communication between global health discourses and local cultural and moral worlds. I suggest the term “moral pluralis

My favorite text is: My current favorite is Jessica Mulligan’s Unmanageable Care: An Ethnography of Health Care Privatization in Puerto Rico. This is an exemplary ethnography of health policy. I particularly appreciate how she recognizes privatization as a positive moral project for the employees of the health management organization (HMO) where she works. This is a refreshing departure from analyses that demonize neoliberalism.

My advice to potential anthropologists is: Anthropology is very rewarding. It expands your horizons and allows you to take seriously the perspective of the people you do your research with and thereby question your own assumptions. Unfortunately Anthropology is not taken very seriously outside of the discipline and the general public are not aware of its strengths. As Anthropologists we have to be very clear about what our contribution is and we have to articulate this to different audiences. That’s the biggest challenge for me.