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Thurka Sangaramoorthy

Professor of Anthropology, American University

I am a cultural and medical anthropologist and public health researcher with 22 years of experience conducting community-engaged ethnographic research among vulnerable populations in the United States, Africa, and Latin America/Caribbean. My work is broadly concerned with power and subjectivity in global economies of care. I have worked at this intersection on diverse topics, including global health and migration, HIV/STD, and environmental health disparities.

I am the author of two books. The most recent is Rapid Ethnographic Assessments: A Practical Approach and Toolkit for Collaborative Community Research co-authored with Karen Kroeger (Routledge, 2020). Rapid ethnographic assessment is a team-based, multi-method, relatively low-cost approach that results in a rich understanding of social, economic, and policy factors that contribute to the root causes of an emerging situation and provides rapid, practical feedback to policymakers and programs. It is an applied approach that can facilitate collaborative work with communities and become a catalyst for action. It has broad appeal to professionals and researchers interested in research efficiency and productivity as well as action-oriented and translational research in a variety of fields and contexts.

My first book, Treating AIDS: Politics of Difference, Paradox of Prevention (Rutgers University Press, 2014), focuses on the broader biopolitics of HIV prevention among Haitians, a transnational immigrant community long plagued by the stigma of being AIDS carriers. Utilizing approaches from medical anthropology, epidemiology, and critical race theory, the book highlights how public health policy and governance fuse notions of HIV pathology with racial and cultural differences while also documenting how Haitians, in the face of social, political and economic marginalization, use HIV as a platform to assert social membership and citizenship claims.

I have two books in press:
(1) Immigration and the Landscape of Care in Rural America will be published with University of North Carolina Press in Spring 2023, and will be available open-access. The book is an ethnography of how care becomes conceptualized and enacted in rural settings among immigrants and non-immigrant residents. Set in the rural and politically conservative region of the Eastern Shore of Maryland, this book explores the dynamic relations between immigration, health, and rural precarity.

(2) She’s Positive: The Extraordinary Lives of Black Women Living with HIV will be published by Aevo in Spring 2023. The book is an edited volume featuring oral history narratives and portraits of older Black women living and aging with HIV. Black women have played a central role in the cultural history of AIDS. The book provides a deeper understanding of this history, uncovering the hidden truth about the HIV epidemic by presenting holistic and complex stories of Black women whose voices have been erased. It reveals the inequities in the US health care system, which, in turn, exposes the profound systemic racism and intersectional discrimination that Black women with HIV face.

I am currently Co-Chair of the American Anthropological Association’s Members Programmatic Advisory and Advocacy Committee and a Board member of the Society for Medical Anthropology; I serve as Associate Editor of Public Health Reports, Editorial Board Member of American Anthropologist, and the inaugural Social, Behavioral, and Qualitative Research Section Editor for PLOS Global Public Health.

I am also Affiliate Professor at Addis Ababa University.


  • –present
    Professor of medical anthropology, University of Maryland