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


Becoming Good Mothers: Maternal Health and Nutrition During the First 1000 Days

Following Women’s Experiences Between Guatemala and the USA

This project aims to bring attention to the ways in which Guatemalan women practice small forms of resistance, resilience and agency in order to become “good” mothers who have “healthy” pregnancies, specifically through the utilization, adaptation, and accumulation of knowledge and care for both maternal health and maternal nutrition.  

By undertaking long-term ethnographic fieldwork, I aim to uncover the intricacies and complexities that surround Guatemalan women’s interactions with various political, economic and socio-cultural forces that surround them as they work towards managing their pregnancies in order to ensure they experience a healthy birth and give birth to healthy babies. Specifically, this project will aim to tease apart the intricacies that surround the ways in which Guatemalan women access maternal health and maternal nutrition programs following the aims of the First Thousand Days (FTD) initiative in Guatemala and Los Angeles USA, how this care reifies or upends their conceptions of becoming good mothers who receive “good” maternal care and make “good” nutritional choices, and how their interactions with these programs speak to their experiences with biopolitical health directives, state and interpersonal violence, reproductive justice, biological citizenship, gender inequality and gender expectations as marginalized transnational citizens.  


Labors of the flesh

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

In this project, I hope to explore how nutrition interventions associated with the global health policy agenda “the first thousand days of life” are adapted for and interact with daily life in the Kingdom of Bhutan through long term fieldwork, sensory and visual ethnography, and person-centered interviewing.  But my aims in this research are as much about decolonial feminist research process as they are about the careful curation of data. This generates some productive friction. On one hand I am concerned about how the use of statistical indicators and theories of causation in global health might be decolonized, how local conceptions of life, death and the body interact with new birthing practices, how nutritional and breastfeeding counseling impacts feeding and caring in kitchens, fields and markets, and how cash transfers and six-month maternity leave impact social attachment and subjectivities of motherhood, fatherhood, and kinship.  On the other hand I seek to co-labor where and when possible in this research. This requires an openness to colleagues living and working in Bhutan on related projects, as well as a willingness to provincialize Euro-American theory. Ultimately as a part of the Global Future Health team, I hope to engage across disciplinary boundaries, senses, and publics. This study is imagined to be in dialogue with critical development studies, critical medical anthropology and humanities, feminist economic anthropology, visual anthropology, and psychological anthropology.

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

Kimberly (Kim) Sigmund, MPhil

Kim Sigmund is a PhD Candidate in Anthropology within the Health, Care and the Body programme group. She has an MSc by Research and an MPhil in Social Anthropology from the University of Edinburgh. She is a member of the Global Future Health research team, studying the implementation of the First 1000 Days adaptive global health intervention. Kim’s research focuses on studying Guatemalan women’s experiences accessing and engaging with maternal and infant nutritional programming while also managing their migration to the USA.

Emily Yates-Doerr

Emily Yates-Doerr is the PI on the ‘Global Future Health’ Project (#Futurehealth) and an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Amsterdam and Oregon State University. Her research for the #FutureHealth project focuses on networks of science and other forms of expertise in the making of maternal health care policy. She is writing a book about global sustainability and legacies of violence in Guatemala’s “Window of Opportunity” human capital initiative. Her previous 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. You can follow her efforts to work within and against established traditions on twitter at @eyatesd 

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 has a particular interest in how different relations are made between domains of science, citizens, and environmental materialities. As a part of the FutureHealth team, Andie will be following the “First 1000 Days” in the Philippines to explore how the framework is shaped by different forms of knowledge and in turn how environments and bodies are figured in relation to potential futures.

Shivani Kaul

Shivani is Lecturer in Anthropology at Royal Thimphu College, a doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of Amsterdam, and part of the Global Future Health ERC research team. Shivani grew up in Delhi and the midwestern US. Her family background and conflict transformation work in Delhi/Kashmir as a WISCOMP Scholar of Peace ground her interdisciplinary research interests in how historical trauma, science, and technology shape women and children’s bodies, well-being, and liberation – particularly in the Himalayan region. Shivani completed a PgCert in Mental health and wellbeing from the Tavistock and Portman NHS Trust alongside an MRes in Anthropology (2018) from University College London on young women’s changing body norms and beauty ideals in Bhutan, after teaching media studies in the Royal University of Bhutan. She previously earned an MA in Arts and Aesthetics from Jawaharlal Nehru University, worked at Harvard Medical School on global health equity research, and completed a BA in South Asia Studies and Political Science from Wellesley College.