Kellogg Faculty Fellow Vania Smith-Oka is Associate Professor of Anthropology. Smith-Oka is a cultural and medical anthropologist who specializes in the effect of institutions on the behavior and choices of marginalized populations, especially women. 

She has explored the impact of an economic development program on the reproductive lives and motherhood of indigenous women in eastern Mexico. From this research emerged her book, Shaping the Motherhood of Indigenous Mexico (Vanderbilt, 2013). She also researched the doctor-patient relationship in a maternity ward in the city of Puebla, particularly the role of space/place, notions of social and medical risk, and quality of care.

Her current research is investigating how skills, practices, and attitudes of medicine are transmitted to medical students. She is specifically addressing the process by which practices such as obstetric violence become prevalent across some societies.

Thematic Interests

Globalization; reproductive health; women's health; ethnobotany; formal and informal health systems

Current Research

How marginal peoples around the world respond to the impact that globalization has on their health needs and local knowledge by looking at how the least powerful members of a community, i.e. women, are responding to this globalization.

Research Sub-Discipline

Book Chapters

“The Disease Factor: The Impact of HIV/AIDS on the People of Tsavo” in Ecology, Economy, and Culture: Human Interactions in the Tsavo Region, Kenya (Africa World Press, forthcoming)


Journal Articles

“Bodies of Risk: Constructing Motherhood in a Mexican Public Hospital,” Social Science and Medicine 75, 12 (2012)
“An Analysis of Two Indigenous Reproductive Health Illnesses in a Nahua Community in Veracruz, Mexico,” Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 8, 33.
“Unintended Consequences: Exploring the Tensions between Development Programs and Indigenous Women in Mexico in the Context of Reproductive Health,” Social Science and Medicine 68 (2009)
"Plants Used for Reproductive Health by Nahua Women in Northern Veracruz, Mexico," Economic Botany 62, 4 (2008)

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