Adrienne Strong

Medical anthropology, maternal mortality, hospital ethnography, and dignity in women's health care

I am a medical anthropologist and Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Florida with a joint Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis, USA and the Universiteit van Amsterdam in the Netherlands. I study maternal mortality and women's health in Tanzania, currently in the Kigoma region on a birth companionship program and the notions of ideal comfort, care, and support for pregnant women in labor. Before my current position, I was a National Science Foundation Postdoctoral Research Fellow with Columbia University's Mailman School of Health, in the Averting Maternal Death and Disability (AMDD) Program in the Heilbrunn Department of Population and Family Health and a Fellow at the Columbia Population Research Center.

My current book project, Documenting Death: Maternal Mortality and the Ethics of Care in Tanzania, under contract with University of California Press, focuses on the inner workings of a government regional referral hospital in Tanzania, examining how institutional structures related to hierarchy, bureaucracy, historical precedents, communication and other factors, may influence the capacity of the institution to provide effective maternal healthcare during times of obstetric crisis. My research focuses on biomedical healthcare providers and administrators, groups that are often overlooked in the context of medical anthropology in sub-Saharan Africa. I contextualize the hospital ethnography with interviews, participant observation, and focus group discussions in communities throughout the region, as well as through the use of primary archival sources from the colonial and post-independence eras. This is the first ethnography to examine the issue of maternal mortality in a low resource setting from this perspective and in the setting of a biomedical facility, complementing the existing work of anthropologists of reproduction who have worked at the community level.

I worked in the Rukwa Region for my PhD fieldwork, which I conducted from January 2014- August 2015. From September 2010 through July 2011, I conducted research on access to healthcare services during pregnancy, birth, and the postpartum period in the Singida Region of Tanzania. My most recent project was about a birth companion pilot program in the Kigoma region of Tanzania from January through December 2018, which focused on the ways in which companions impact the social dynamics of health center maternity wards and the care provided in those settings. This project also included an 80-question cultural consensus survey and analysis around the cultural domain of care and support for pregnant women.

This is my personal website, which includes updates on my research, collaborations, conference presentations and papers, publications, teaching, and critical responses to current events related to women's health and reproduction.

Mentions and Public Anthropology

Paper Prize

Washington University Feature

Feature on Anthropology Department Website

Research Report on Global Health Hub

Photoessay on

Mention on Anthrodendum

Mention on Anthrodendum for fieldwork blog

12:00 PM12:00

Public presentation of dissertation research

Because I am defending my dissertation in Amsterdam, I will be giving a brief presentation of my work at Washington University so those not able to be present in Amsterdam can still see the culmination of my research. Following the brief (~30 minutes) presentation, I will take questions and comments and then we will enjoy cake and champagne to celebrate.

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11:30 AM11:30

Ethnographic Theory Workshop

This event is open to the public and is generally a scholarly discussion works in progress. I will be workshopping a new manuscript for a future article, on the topic of rumors, organizational culture, and social interactions in the hospital setting. 

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to Apr 1

Society for Applied Anthropology Meeting

I will be attending the annual meeting of the Society for Applied Anthropology (SfAA), which is in Santa Fe, New Mexico this year. I will be presenting on a panel on Wednesday, the 29th and will be attending the Peter K. New Panel session on Thursday, the 30th as the 3rd place winner. 

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to Jan 10

Based in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

From August 28th, 2016 through January 10th, 2017 I will be based in The Netherlands as I finish up my dissertation and coordinate the details of my joint degree with the Universiteit van Amsterdam. I am particularly looking forward to the opportunity to work with and learn from some new European colleagues. If you will be around, either in Amsterdam or elsewhere in Europe, I would love to hear from you!

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to Sep 11

MAGic 2015 Conference (Brighton, England)

Held at the University of Sussex and put on by the European Association of Social Anthropologists Medical Anthropology Network.

This conference is exploring the intersections of anthropology and global health. I'll be giving a paper entitled "Ethnography as Mediator Between Communities and Maternal Healthcare Providers in Rukwa, Tanzania." 

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1:15 AM01:15

American Anthropological Association

I will be giving a presentation on the homebirth community of the greater St. Louis metropolitan area, based on research I did with this population in 2011 and 2012 for a class entitled "Cultures of Science and Technology."  I chose to conduct participant observation and interviews with this community as a response to the over medicalization of pregnancy and birth. I sought to explore ways in which this community was responding to the effects of technology and biomedical interventions in pregnancy and birth. 

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