I am a sociocultural anthropologist who specializes in medical anthropology and has considerable field experience in Global Health, health disparities, and ethnomedicine broadly defined. I have conducted research on a wide range of topics from child survival and reproductive health to emerging zoonotic and vector born diseases, and from mental health and chronic illness to pharmaceutical practice, tobacco control, and health systems and policy research. As an engaged anthropologist I have spent much of my life demonstrating how anthropology can contribute to real world problem solving through a multi-stage process of formative research. As a social theorist I study illness and healing as entry points for understanding identity projects, gender roles, the politics of responsibility, citizenship, biopolitics, biocommunicability, trust, and so much more. I have conducted research in South India as well as Sri Lanka and The Philippines, and have served in a support role for projects in Indonesia, Thailand, West Africa, and Latin America. Aside from anthropology, I have postdoctoral training in Public Health and Psychiatry. To be a scholar activist requires a fair amount of reflexivity and involves many personal and professional challenges. On a lighter note, things that bring me joy are my family and friends, clear thought and glassy waves, the adventures of travel, poetry in motion, musical expression, and the aesthetics of everyday life.
View Dr. Nichter's complete CV here.
Watch Dr. Nichter's video Pathways to Health on the Anthropology Videos page.
The University of Arizona School of Anthropology is home to Project Quit Tobacco International (QTI), a transnational and transdisciplinary research and training collaboration dedicated to developing clinic and community-based tobacco cessation research capacity in India and Indonesia, two of the three countries with the largest number of tobacco users in the world. Project QTI finished its twelfth year and second cycle of funding from the National Institutes of Health, Fogarty International Center (FIC) in August 2014. It developed innovative tobacco cessation training programs in medical colleges, introduced cessation programs in clinic and community settings, promoted a community-based smoke free home movement, and helped establish a tobacco cessation community of practice. Lessons learned from and cessation materials developed in these two countries are posted on the QTI web site and visited regularly visited by researchers and community activists from all over the world. One aim of the project is to help initiate a global tobacco cessation community of practice that encourages both South : South and North : South dialogue and the free exchange of research experiences by those actively involved in teaching and delivering cessation services. Professors Mark Nichter and Mimi Nichter from the School of Anthropology are the Co-PIs of Project QTI. In December 2014, QTI will initiate research and training activities in Turkey thanks to the support of a Global Bridges grant from the Mao Clinic. Learn more about QTI here.
I am a member of the National Advisory Committee (NAC) of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholars program. The Health & Society Scholars program seeks to improve the nation’s health by addressing the full spectrum of factors that affect health and creating the evidence to inform policy in multiple sectors that can promote health. The program trains scholars to investigate the effects of contextual factors on behavior and biology in order to strengthen the knowledge base supporting population-wide interventions. To that end, the NAC, which consists of distinguished representatives from academia, government agencies and public policy, guides program policy, reviews scholar applications, participates in annual meetings and assists in monitoring site performance. Learn more about the program here.
Ph.D. U of Edinburgh, 1977; MPH Johns Hopkins School of Public Health -International Health 1978; Post Doc:. University of Hawaii School of Medicine Transcultural psychiatry 1980-1982
I have broad research interests in the topical areas of: Anthropology of health and development; medical anthropology; the interface between anthropology and epidemiology; ecosocial epidemiology and political ecology; zoonotic disease and pandemic response; ethnomedicine and approaches to healing inclusive of alternative and complementary medicine in the USA; medical anthropology in clinical settings; health disparity and the politics of responsibility; globalization; the marketing of desire; governance projects and processes; the study of risk, harm reduction, and trust.
I have research interests in the following ethnographic regions: South Asia, especially South India; Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia, the Philippines, and N.E. Thailand; West Africa, especially Benin and Cameroon; and the USA.
My current research involves: multilevel ethnographic study of pharmaceutical and diagnostic test related behavior; emerging and neglected diseases; tobacco use, dependence, and marketing; the outsourcing of clinical trials to developing countries; and health systems research and health insurance in LMIC.
Global Health: Why Cultural Perceptions, Social Representations, and Biopolitics Matter. University of Arizona press. Spring 2008 (reprinted three times).
Selected Articles (see CV for others)
Megan Prescott and Mark Nichter. Transnational nurse migration: future directions for anthropological research. Social Science & Medicine. Social Science & Medicine 107: 113–123, 2014.
Emery R. Eaves, Cheryl Ritenbaugh, Mark Nichter, Allison Hopkins, and Karen J. Sherman. Modes of Hoping: Understanding hope and expectation in the context of a clinical trial of complementary and alternative medicine for chronic pain. EXPLORE: The Journal of Science and Healing 10(4): 225–232, 2014.
Myra L. Muramoto, John R. Hall, Mark Nichter, Mimi Nichter, Mikel Aickin, Tim Connolly, Eva Matthews, Jean Campbell, and Harry Lando. Activating lay health influencers to promote tobacco cessation. American Journal of Health Behavior 38(3): 392–403, 2014.
G.K. Mini, Mark Nichter, and K.R. Thankappan. Does increased knowledge of risk and complication of smoking on diabetes affect quit rate? Findings from a randomized controlled trial in Kerala, India. Tobacco Use Insights 7: 27–30, 2014.
K.R. Thankappan, T.R. Yamini, G.K. Mini, C. Arthur, P. Sairu, K. Leelamoni, M. Sani, B. Unnikrishnan, S.R. Basha, Mark Nichter for the Project Quit Tobacco International. Assessing the readiness to integrate tobacco control in medical curriculum: Experiences from five medical colleges in South India. The National Medical Journal of India 26(1): 18–23, 2013.
Mark Nichter. The Rise and Transformation of Evidence-Based Medicine. In E. Liebow, V.R. Dominguez, P.N. Peregrine, T.L. McCarty, Mark Nichter, B. Nardi, and J. Leeman, On Evidence and the Public Interest. American Anthropologist 115(4): 642–655, 2013.
Mark Nichter. One man’s dream, another man’s cosmology. Anthropology and Humanism 38(1): 1–18, 2013.
Kerstin M. Reishcmidt, Jenny Chong, and Mark Nichter. Monitoring shifts in social relations among chronically ill Mexican Americans as a culturally sensitive indicator of depression. Practicing Anthropology 35(3): 33–37, 2013.
K.R. Thankappan, G.K. Mini, Meena Daivadanam, G. Vijayakumar, P.S. Sarma, and Mark Nichter. Smoking Cessation among Diabetes Patients: Results of a Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial in Kerala, India. BMC Public Health 13: 47, 2013.
Kim Kelly and Mark Nichter. The politics of local biology in transnational drug testing: creating (bio)identities and reproducing (bio)nationalism through Japanese “Ethno-bridging” studies. East Asian Science, Technology and Society: An International Journal 6(3): 379–399, 2012.
Priscilla Magrath and Mark Nichter. Paying for performance and the social relations of health care provision: an anthropological perspective. Social Science & Medicine 75(10):1778–1785, 2012.
K.G. Deepak, M. Daivadanam, A.S. Pradeepkumar, G.K. Mini, K.R. Thankappan, and Mark Nichter. Smokeless tobacco use among patients with tuberculosis in Karnataka: The need for cessation services. National Medical Journal of India 25(3): 142–145, 2012.
Mark Nichter. Idioms of Distress Revisited. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, 34(2): 401–416, 2010.
Articles in Press
Mark Nichter and Melanie Medeiros. Critical anthropology for global health: What can it contribute to critical health psychology. Chapter in Critical Health Psychology, second ed. Michael Murry, ed. Palgrave. In Press.
Emery R. Eaves, Mark Nichter, Cheryl Ritenbaugh, Elizabeth Sutherland, and Sam Dworkin. Works of Illness and Paradoxes Confronting TMD Patients. Medical Anthropology Quarterly. In Press.
Jennifer Jo Thompson and Mark Nichter. Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the US Health Insurance Reform Debate: An Anthropological Assessment Is Warranted. Medical Anthropology Quarterly. In Press.
K.R. Thankappan, G.K. Mini, Meenu Hariharan, G. Vijayakumar, P.S. Sarma, and Mark Nichter. Smoking Cessation among Diabetes Patients in Kerala, India: One Year Follow-up Results from a Pilot Randomized Controlled Trial. Diabetes Care. In Press.
Amy Dao and Mark Nichter. The Social Life of health Insurance in Low- to Middle-Income Countries: An Anthropological Research Agenda. Medical Anthropology Quarterly. In Press.
Culture and the Individual
Anthropology of the Body , Health and Illness
Global Health and Anthropology
Medical Anthropology in Clinical and Community Contexts
Global Health (for undergraduates)
Global Bridges (Mayo Clinic), Building Capacity for Illness-Specific Tobacco Cessation among Nurses and Clinical Psychologists in Turkey, 2014–2016 [$200,000]
Optimus Foundation (UBS Bank), Social Science Support for Buruli Ulcer Research in Benin, The Cameroon, and Ghana (Research Support), 2012–2015 [$100,000 per year]
NIH/NCI Tobacco Cessation Training for acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic practitioners, R01 CA137375-01AI (Myra Muramoto, PI; Mark Nichter, Co-Investigator), 2009–2014 [$3,141,019]
Fogarty International (NIH) Award, Building Capacity of Tobacco Cessation in India and Indonesia. 2007–2012. [PI] [$1,505,900].
NIH/National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, Arizona Complementary and Anlternative Medicine Research Training Program (ACAMRTP). Iris Bell. 2007–2012. [Core Mentor] [$1,936,774].
Areas of Study:
South Asia & Southeast Asia
North America (general)