researcher researching

Embodiment, Health and Wellbeing

Embodiment, Health and Wellbeing

This cluster explores the sociocultural, biological, and political facets of embodied life through ethnographic and historical perspectives. 


We also examine how science, technology, media and medicine reconfigure ideas of health, illness and the body. Current research includes mental health, metabolic and infectious diseases, paleogenomics, the politics of global health, nutrition, ethics, inequalities, and the material body.


Ellen Badone

Professor, Religious Studies 

University Hall (UH) 130 


Tel 905-525-9140,23395 


Since her first ethnographic fieldwork in the 1980s in Brittany (France), on the social and cultural context of death and dying, Ellen Badone has been engaged with issues relating to health, illness and aging. More recently, she has started research in Canada on mental health and autism, as well as the impact of COVID-19 on long-term care residents and staff in Ontario. Using a narrative approach, she focuses on first-person accounts of embodied and psychological experience.

Cal Biruk

Associate Professor 

CNH 510 


Tel 905-525-9140,24664  


Cal Biruk’s interests lie at the intersection of medical anthropology, science and technology studies (STS), and queer studies. Drawing on these theoretical approaches, Cal’s work explores, for example, the social lives of quantitative data, histories and politics of global health, queer potentials in fitness wearables, and the effects of the global push to “end AIDS” in Africa on sexual minorities (termed “key populations” in global health parlance). Cal’s long-term ethnographic work in Malawi examines how aid geographies and audit culture limit our imaginaries of health and wellbeing in the global South yet highlights how people creatively negotiate global circuits of resource distribution rooted in colonial cartographies. Rather than merely showing what global health’s top-down logics and projects ‘get wrong,’ Cal documents the emerging social worlds, relations, and transactions produced amid the datafication of health in places such as Malawi.

Megan Brickley

Professor | Canada Research Chair (Tier 1) in Bioarchaeology of Human Disease 

Chester New Hall (CNH) 518 


Tel 905-525-9140,24256 


Megan Brickley explores aspects of life that are reflected in health and disease.  She led the largest paleopathological investigation of vitamin D deficiency undertaken to date – almost 3500 Roman skeletons. Use of groundbreaking techniques developed by her team have opened the possibility of investigating long term trends and providing a past perspective on current health problems.  Data generated by her team have allowed comparisons between paleopathology and text-based sources. Her graduate seminar on Metabolic disease explores the way in which information on the current occurrence of these conditions contributes to understanding factors operating in past societies.

Dawn Martin-Hill

Associate Professor 

Chester New Hall, Room 538 


Tel 905-525-9140,27605 


Dawn Martin-Hill (Mohawk, Wolf Clan) holds a PhD in Cultural Anthropology and is one of the original founders of the Indigenous Studies Program at McMaster University. She is the recipient of a US-Canada Fulbright award, Outstanding Teaching Award from the Aboriginal Institutes Consortium, and she has received grants from SSHRC, CIHR and the Ontario Trillium Foundation. Her research includes: Indigenous knowledge & cultural conservation, Indigenous women, traditional medicine and health and the contemporary practice of Indigenous traditionalism. She is Co-PI on a CIHR-IAPH funded NEAHR grant (Network Environments in Aboriginal Health Research), the Indigenous Health Research Development Program (IHDRP).

Hendrik Poinar


Chester New Hall (CNH), Room 537 


Tel 905-525-9140,26331 


Hendrik Poinar and his group are interested in the evolutionary history of infectious disease. Using DNA and RNA molecules isolated from the victims of past epidemics, we attempt to reconstruct their origins as well as the tempo and mode of pathogen evolution. Over the last decade we’ve focused primarily on two pathogens responsible for massive mortality and morbidity during the last millenia, that of Yersinia pestis– the causative agent of bubonic plague, responsible for the Black Death and Variola virus, the aetiological agent of smallpox. We isolate organic signatures (DNA) from skeletal, archival and forensic remains using meticulious molecular methods in highly specialized clean labs here at McMaster University, for resolving questions about the emergence and long-term evolution of pathogens.

Tina Moffat

Associate Professor and Chair 

Chester New Hall, Room 527 


Tel 905-525-9140,23906 


Tina Moffat’s research perspectives are grounded in biocultural and political-economic approaches to understanding health and well-being among children, youth, mothers and infants. Her current research involves knowledge translation and support for pregnant women regarding Developmental Origins of Health and Disease (DOHaD) as it relates to maternal diet and access to pregnancy support resources. This is part of a community-engaged study based in the City of Hamilton called “Mothers to Babies” (M2B).  


Dr. Moffat teaches Anthrop 740 Biocultural Synthesis.

Tracy Prowse (she/her)

Associate Professor; Associate Dean Academic, Faculty of Social Sciences; Associate Editor, American Journal of Biological Anthropology 

Chester New Hall, Room 514 


Tel 905-525-9140,20191 (ADA Office) 


My research explores diet, health and mobility in past populations, using palaeopathological and isotopic analyses of human bones and teeth. My approach is interdisciplinary, combining skeletal, isotopic, and archaeological evidence embedded within the historical and archaeological context of the people I study. My ongoing research project is a bioarchaeological investigation of a rural Roman cemetery on an Imperial estate at Vagnari, south Italy.  Learn more about the Bioarchaeological Field School at Vagnari here. I am also working on the following projects: 1) A SSHRC Insight Development Grant (2017-2019) entitled ‘Deadly Lead? An Interdisciplinary Study of Lead Production, Lead Exposure, and Health on an Imperial Roman Estate in Italy’. This research focuses on lead production, lead use, and associated lead exposure at the Roman period site of Vagnari (south Italy). My co-PI on this project is Dr. Maureen Carroll from the University of Sheffield, UK. Learn more about the Deadly Lead Project here. 2) A SSHRC Insight Development Grant led by Dr. Bonnie Glencross (Wilfred Laurier University) and Dr. Gary Warrick (Wilfred Laurier University) exploring the use of dogs as proxies for stable isotope analysis of diet in prehistoric populations from southern Ontario. 3) An integrated analysis of health, diet, and mobility in Roman Merovingian Michelet, France. My co-PIs on this project are Dr. Cecile Chapelain de Sereville-Niel and Dr. Christine De La Place (Caen, France). This research is funded through the France-Canada New Research Collaboration Program.


1AB3: Race, Religion, and Violence
1AA3: Sex, Food and Death

2AN3: Food and Nutrition
2DO3: DNA Meets Anthropology
2EE3: Sport and/as Religion
2EO3: Intro to Biological Anthropology
2FF3: Skeletal Biology & Bioarchaeology
2HH3: Science, Technology, and Society
2RP3: Religion and Power in the Past
2UO3: Plagues and Peoples

3CAC: Ceramic Analysis
3CO3: Health and Environment
3FA3: Forensic Anthropology
3HI3: Anthropology of Health, Illness, and Healing
3LA3: Lithics Analysis
3PP3: Paleopathology

4CC3: Archaeology of Foodways
4DN3: Diet and Nutrition
4DO3: Zombies and the Undead
4GS3: Genetics and Society
4RO3: Advanced Skeletal Biology

704: Intro to Anthropology of Religion
709: Medical Anthropology
734: Indigenous Knowledge
740: Biocultural Synthesis
741: Metabolic Disease
746: Bioarchaeology
749: Gastronomic Heritage
796: Religion, Illness, and Healing

Research Clusters

While the department covers four main Research Programs (sub-fields) in Anthropology, we also integrate these Research Programs in six key areas of expertise and investigation: Art and New Materialisms; Ecologies, Resilience and Change; Embodiment, Health and Wellbeing; Foodways, Diet and Nutrition; Heritage, History and Memory; and Migrations, Displacements and Violence. 


Art and New Materialisms 

Ecologies, Resilience and Change 

Foodways, Diet and Nutrition 

Heritage, History and Memory 

Migrations, Displacements and Violence

Research Programs