Ethnography of Intervention

This project studies a global health intervention to improve maternal/child nutrition. The intervention draws numerous disciplines and geographic regions together in a holistic pursuit of a sustainable and healthy collective future. It then unfolds in diverse and localized ways. We study the intervention across several sites: the Netherlands, Guatemala-Los Angeles, Bhutan, and the Philippines. Where experts currently ask how to translate their knowledge into the field, we will ask how lessons from the field might be translated back into expert knowledge and, where relevant, made available elsewhere. The innovative force of our research is to ask how living with/in difference can become both a social ideal and a research style.



Our homebase at the UvA

Roesterseiland Building B/C
Nieuwe Achtergracht 166
1018 WV, Amsterdam

Los Angeles, USA

Precarious Motherhood: The impact of intersectional precarities on maternal healthcare access and motherhood in Los Angeles, USA

This project aims to bring attention to the ways in which Central American asylum-seeking women in Los Angeles navigate maternal health and motherhood while simultaneously living with intersectional precarities. Through data collected during long-term ethnographic fieldwork, I discuss the intersection of various modes of precarity such as language, income, legal (in)visibility, (im)mobility and structural racism. I argue that these modes of precarity, which create barriers to care and wellbeing, also hinder asylum-seeking women’s capacity to access and utilize various maternal healthcare systems and to parent their children in the ways they desire to. Through the framework of intersectional precarity I discuss how the US asylum system, California law and Los Angeles local public health systems create and maintain levels of precarity in marginalized women’s lives that hinder their capacity to have reproductive justice.


Labors of the flesh

The ethical, ecological and emotional entanglements of “the first 1000 days of life”

Recent biomedical studies on stunting and anemia in Bhutan suggest the need for careful qualitative research on potential frictions between maternal and child nutrition interventions and the occupational, neighborhood, kinship, and cosmological practices that shape how people eat, drink, or move during the first 1000 days. In this project, I follow scientists, policymakers, health workers, and nutrition intervention participants as they translate this global health policy agenda in and out of clinical spaces. I do so with multi-sited, multimodal, and multi-temporal fieldwork with colleagues based in Kanglung, Bhutan. In the process, we hope to complicate the relationship between growing the human and growing the economy during a time of climate crisis – as well as experiment with non-colonial feminist science.

The Philippines

Fragile Networks

Feminism, Futurity, and Ecological Change

The First 1000 Days is generally framed as a problem of malnutrition, mobilizing micronutrients at different time points to produce optimally development bodies. In the Philippines, the vision of what is required to cultivate health and prosperity for future generations also involves a complicated entanglement of health infrastructure, ecology, and women’s rights. In the design of First 1000 days interventions, multilateral governance utilizes the charismatic potential of the framework to ensure adequate funding is procured while local health practitioners write in the needs of their specific communities and prepare contingency plans to continue the work should the framework loose its value to the politicians and policy makers. This study seeks to follow the “first 1000 days” health framework in the Philippines as an object embedded within a fragile network where bodies, environments, and visions of the future interact with resilient institutions, connected by relations between materialities and sociopolitical phenomena.

Research Team

Andie Thompson

Andie has a background in anthropology (BA, Pacific University, US), public health nutrition (MSc, National University of Natural Medicine, US), and social science research (MSc, University of Amsterdam, NL). She is currently pursuing a PhD in Anthropology, working as a part of the FutureHealth team, a multi-sited global health ethnography. Andie will be following the epigenetic frameworks for maternal and child health in Portland, Oregon to explore biosocial modeling practices and research that seeks to understand how environments and bodies are figured in relation to potential futures.

Emily Yates-Doerr

Emily Yates-Doerr is the PI on the ‘Global Future Health’ Project (#Futurehealth) and an associate professor of anthropology at the University of Amsterdam and Oregon State University. Her research for #FutureHealth focuses on networks of science and other forms of expertise in the making of maternal health care policy. Her scholarship bridges medical and feminist anthropology, science and technology studies, and food justice. She is writing a book that analyzes global sustainability and legacies of violence in Guatemala’s “Window of Opportunity” human capital initiative. Her first book, The Weight of the Obesity: Hunger and Global Health in Postwar Guatemala (UC Press, 2015), examines the emergence of the diagnostic category of obesity in postwar Guatemala.

Kimberly (Kim) Sigmund, MPhil

Kim Sigmund is a PhD Candidate in Anthropology within the Health, Care and the Body programme group. She is a member of the Global FutureHealth research team, studying the implementation of various First 1000 Days adaptive global health interventions. Kim has a BA in Anthropology from California State University Northridge, a MSc by Research and a MPhil in Social Anthropology from the University of Edinburgh. She has a background in clinical research and public health, and worked on US state and federally funded public health projects in Los Angeles, USA before joining the FutureHealth team. Kim’s research focuses on precarious motherhood: specifically, the ways in which Central American asylum-seeking women navigate maternal health care systems and motherhood in Los Angeles, USA.

Shivani Kaul

Shivani Kaul is a member of the Global Future Health project, a PhD candidate in anthropology at the University of Amsterdam, and a visiting research student at the Royal University of Bhutan. Her family history and feminist conflict transformation work in Delhi and Kashmir root her research interest in how science, health, and development might be done differently in settings that have not been directly colonized, like Bhutan. In her work she draws from multidisciplinary training between art and science: political science and South Asia studies at Wellesley College (BA), global health equity at Harvard Medical School, arts and aesthetics in JNU (MA), media studies in Sherubtse College, biosocial anthropology at UCL (MRes), and mental health and wellbeing at Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust (PgCert). Through collective experiments in authorship and research practice, she is also keen to open up how authority is done.