Dr Fouzieyha Towghi

PhD, University of California, Berkeley; MA, University of California, San Francisco; MPH, University of Hawaii; BA, Michigan State University
Lecturer in Medical Anthropology at the School of Archaeology and Anthropology, ANU College of Arts and Social Sciences
College of Arts and Social Sciences

Research interests

Areas of Expertise: Medical Anthropology; anthropology of health, medicine, and the body; gender and feminist techno-science/medicine studies; anthropology of reproduction, kinship, and reproductive technologies; decolonial and postcolonial theories; race, gender, and sexuality studies; Childbirth, midwifery, and women's health; critical global health and development studies; histories of colonial medical sciences; transnational feminisms and human rights; Indigenous and "alternative" medicines; ethnographic/feminist research methods; Geographic areas of focus: Bolochistan; Pakistan; India; and South Asia.

As a medical anthropologist and an ethnographer of health, medicine and science, I have examined the socio-cultural, historical and political economic dimensions of health, illness, medicine, biotechnologies, and the technologies of rule. Linking theories from anthropology, feminist techno-science studies and postcolonial feminist theories and methods, I have analysed the entanglements of biomedical and global health development policies to trace the corporeal and social effects of trans-historical and transnational mobilities of bio-scientific ideas, biotechnologies, and human rights policies and experts. I have explicated the impacts of these processes particularly on poor and rural women’s bodies and social material/environmental conditions in South Asian contexts.

I have published on the relationship between the HPV vaccine, local biologies, and the  epigenetics of cervical cancer; cultural politics of reproductive health; debates on the role of indigenous midwives and traditional medicines in women’s care; impact of health development policies on local midwifery and women’s access to care consequent to the United Nations Millennium Development Goals outlined for the reduction of global maternal mortality rates; and the risks for poor and rural women of advocating off-label low-tech pharmaceuticals in homebirths in Pakistan. My work has appeared in peer-reviewed journals, Medical Anthropology and Ethnos as well as in the books, Negotiating Normativity (2016), Critical Mobilties (2013); and Unhealthy Policy (2004). In 2015, my article, “Normalizing Off-Label Experiments and the Pharmaceuticalization of Homebirths in Pakistan,” was awarded the Rudolph Virchow Professional Award, by the Critical Anthropology for Global Health Caucus of the Society for Medical Anthropology.

I am currently writing my first book, provisionally titled, Caring ‘In the Times of the Ladies’: Contesting Humanitarian Imaginaries of Women’s Health, Midwives, and the Tribal in Rural Balochistan. The ethnography draws on over six years of work and fifteen months of sustained ethnographic research in Balochistan, Pakistan to trace the biopolitics of global reproductive health and rights policies and pharmaceutical globalization and the impact of these processes on Baloch women and their culture of midwifery. 







Researcher's projects

As a postdoctoral research fellow with the Swiss Network for Mobilities Studies in the Department of Social and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Zürich (2009-2012), I developed my ideas for my second book tentatively titled, Biopolitics of Reproductive Technologies Beyond the Clinic: Remaking Adolescents in the Era of Molecular Biology. For this project, I initiated a new ethnographic research project in India, Switzerland,and the United States to investigate the effects of the globalization of HPV vaccine on Indian women’s health, cervical cancer prevention efforts, and India’s public health care system. Phase one of the project investigated the links between the innovations in the molecular biology of cervical cancer and the rise of the HPV-vaccine and how this is reconfiguring global reproductive health policies and public health care practices in India. My fieldwork in several Indian cities and rural areas in 2009, 2011, and 2012 traced the simultaneous emergence of the HPV vaccine and global health cervical cancer prevention programs, in the context of the shifting nexus between biomedicine, biotechnologies, the state, and population health care there. I examined some of the public health and scientific claims as well as the policy and institutional arrangements crafted to facilitate the flow of the vaccine and localize its distribution in rural and urban Indian locales through the public health system. (For preliminary findings see: Towghi 2013; Towghi and Randeria 2013). I am currently developing Phase II of this research that aims to study how the introduction of the HPV vaccine and HPV screening technologies in clinical settings is mediating pre-existing cervical cancer prevention and therapeutic practices and the hospital preventive services that are inceasinlgy linked to public health community outreach efforts in India. 

I joined ANU with 10 years of prior teaching experience in Anthropology and Gender & Women's Studies. I am currently teaching the following courses: 

ANTH 2138/6138: Doing Medical Anthropology

CHMD 8006: Global Health and Development

CHMD 8021: Indigenous Medicines, Health and Healing [commencing in 2018]

CHMD 8022: Biotechnolgies in Biomedicine [commencing in 2018]

CHMD 8008: Medicine and Society in History [commencing in 2019 with revised descripton] 


Available student projects

I am happy to supervise PhD, MA and Honours students wishing to engage the broad areas of medical anthropology and/or feminist science and technology studies in their respective research. I would also be pleased to mentor students interested in: the transnational application of theories of race and gender; the cultural politics of globalization of biomedicine and biotechnologies; the study of the relationship between kinship, sexuality, and reproductive technologies; developing an expertise in the anthropology of reproduction; indigenous medicines, health, and healing; the role of humanitarianism in international/global health, and the anthropology of South Asia. 

Current student projects

Primary Supervisor of followng student research:

Ruonan Chen, (PhD Candidate, Medical Anthropology 2017): “Making Hospitals: an ethnographic of how management policies and practices shape the functioning of county-level hospitals in Tibet Autonomous Region, China” [Primary Supervisor with Dr. Trang Ta]

Nur Newaz Khan, (PhD Student, Medical Anthropology, January 2018): “Recognition Matters: An ethnographic exploration of politics in recognizing health care providers and prescribers under neoliberal pharmaceutical market in Bangladesh.” Recipient of ANU University Research Scholarship

Xin Wang (Master of Anthropology, Advanced S2-2018): “Caregivers in Post-Socialist China” 

Ali Sweeney (Master of Culture Health and Medicine/CHMD, Advanced S1-2019): “The Anti Vaccination Movement in Australia”

Susan Braun (Master of Culture Health and Medicine/ CHMD, Advanced S1-2019): “The Asmat Health Crisis in West Papua, Indonesia: An Ethnographic Analysis”

Kylie Murray (Master of Anthropology, Advanced S1-2019): “The implication of state-sanctioned corporatization of psychedelic research on pre-existing un-sanctioned researchers”






Past student projects

Principal advisor of followhing Ph.D. students during my faculty tenure in the Depatment of Anthropology at the California Institute of Integral studies, San Francisco, USA

Cynthia Gonzalez, Ph.D. (2014) Watts, Our Town: 'Nothing About Us, Without Us, Is For US': An Autoethnographic Account of Life in Watts, California

Natalie Cox, Ph.D. (2016) The Burdens of Bureaucracy: African Immigrants and Asylum Seekers in San Francisco

Destiny Thomas, Ph.D. (2016) Black Thrivance and Why #BlackLivesMatter: Interrogating The Black Plight Narrative, Resisting Black Death

Terri Sé Sullivan. Ph.D. (2016) Conversion Therapy Ground Zero: Interrogating the Production of Gender as a Pathology in the United States



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Updated:  25 September 2021 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers