Mark Nichter

Mark Nichter's picture
Regents' Professor and Professor of Anthropology, Public Health, Family Medicine






Emil W. Haury Building, Room 321

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 infectious diseases, and from mental health to pharmaceutical practice and tobacco control. 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.

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. Now in its eleventh year and completing its second cycle of funding from the National Institutes of Health, Fogarty International Center (FIC), Project QTI has 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. 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

Research Interests: 

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; 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 the Indonesia, Philippines and N.E. Thailand; the USA.

My current research involves: multilevel ethnographic study of pharmaceutical and diagnostic test related behavior; infectious and vector borne disease; tobacco use, dependence and marketing; the outsourcing of clinical trials to developing countries.

Selected Publications: 

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.

C. Ritenbaugh, Mimi Nichter, Mark Nichter, K.L. Kelly, C.M. Sims, I.R. Bell, H. Castaeda, C.R. Elder, M. Koithan, E.G. Sutherland, M.J. Verhoef, S.L Warber, S.J. Coons.  Developing a Patient-Centered Outcome Measure for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies I:  Defining Content and Format. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 11:135, 2011.

Yuan, Nicole P., Castañeda, Heide, Nichter, Mark, Nichter, Mimi, Wind, Steven, Carruth, Lauren, and Muramoto, Myra.  Lay Health Influencers: How They Tailor Brief Tobacco Cessation Interventions.  Health Education and Behavior. Published online before print October 10, 2011. doi: 10.1177/1090198111421622

Jennifer Jo Thompson and Mark Nichter.  Missing the emperor altogether:  a call for research on how consumers use dietary supplements.  The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine 17(4): 287–288, 2011.

Mark Nichter and Mimi Nichter.  Revisiting the concept of Karma: lessons from a Dhanvantri Homa.  Journal of Ritual Studies : December 2010

Mark Nichter.  Idioms of Distress Revisited.  Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, 34(2): 401–416, 2010.

Mark Nichter, Mimi Nichter, Myra Muramoto, and Project Quit Tobacco International  Project Quit Tobacco International:  Laying the groundwork for tobacco cessation in low- and middle-income countries.  Asia-Pacific Journal of Public Health 22(3): 181S–188S, 2010

 Charles L. Briggs and Mark Nichter.  Biocommunicability and the biopolitics of pandemic threats.  Medical Anthropology 28(3): 189–198, 2009.

Jennifer Jo Thompson, Cheryl Ritenbaugh, and Mark Nicther. Reconsidering the placebo response from a broad anthropological perspective.  Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 33(1): 112–152, 2009.

James Pfeiffer and Mark Nichter for the Critical Medical Anthropology for Global Health Special Interest Group. What can critical medical anthropology contribute to global health:  a health systems perspective.  Medical Anthropology Quarterly 22(4): 410–415, 2008.

[Mimi Nichter, S. Padmawati, M. Danardono, N. Ng, Y. Prabandari, and Mark Nichter].  Reading culture from tobacco advertisements in Indonesia.  Tobacco Control 18: 98–107, 2009.

Mark Nichter.  Coming to our senses:  appreciating the sensorial in medical anthropology.  Transcultural Psychiatry 45(2): 163–197, 2008.

Kathryn M. Orzech and Mark Nichter  From resilience to resistance: political ecological lessons from antibiotic and pesticide resistance.  Annual Review of Anthropology 37: 267–282, 2008.

Mark, Nichter Global Health:  Why Cultural Perceptions, Social Representations, and Biopolitics Matter.  University of Arizona Press.  Spring 2008.

Mark Nichter, Cecilia S. Acuin, and Alberta Vargas.  Introducing Zinc in a Diarrhoeal Disease Control Programme:  Guide to Conducting Formative Research.  Geneva:  World Health Organization, 2008. 

Mark Nichter and Margaret Lock, eds. New Horizons in Medical Anthropology. Routledge. 2002.  [paper and hardback


Courses Taught: 

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)


Optimus Foundation (UBS Bank), Social Science Support for Buruli Ulcer Research Project in Benin, The Cameroon, and Ghana (Research Support), 2009-2011 [$67,000 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: 

Southwest US
Southeast Asia
South Asia & Southeast Asia
North America (general)