Sienna Radha Craig
Associate Professor and Chair, Department of AnthropologyAffiliated Faculty, Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Program and Women and Gender Studies Program
The worlds of healing across cultures, the meanings people ascribe to illness, and the social lives of medicines fascinate me. I am also deeply curious about how communities navigate processes of migration and social change. My research takes me to the Nepal Himalaya and Tibetan regions of China.
As a cultural anthropologist, I am invested in understanding the multiple ways that so-called 'traditional' medical systems interact with biomedicine: from patient-healer relationships and the cultural meanings people ascribe to suffering and affliction; to the wider socioeconomic and political circumstances in which medical practitioners are trained, healing occurs, and medicines are produced, evaluated, and distributed. Much of my work is collaborative, interdisciplinary, and trained on applying critical medical anthropology perspectives and insights to ground truth health care realities in a variety of transnational contexts. I also have an abiding interest in studies of ethnicity and identity, including how experiences of diaspora and exile impact subjectivities, concepts of "health" and health seeking behaviors.
Over the past decade, I have been investigating contemporary Tibetan medicine, both in Nepal and Tibetan areas of China and as a globalizing "complementary and alternative" medicine. I analyze how practitioners of Tibetan medicine transmit knowledge between generations, and how they are professionalizing. I also address the translation of science across cultural, epistemological, and ideological borders by documenting what happens when Tibetan medicines are made to adhere to biomedical standards of drug safety and quality, and as they are evaluated through clinical research in Asia and the West. In Nepal and China, where I work, these dynamics reflect nation-building agendas and the politics of identity; they also illuminate an expanding global market for complementary and alternative medicines and point to the ethical, economic, and environmental challenges inherent in producing traditional medicines for mass markets.
I first traveled to Nepal in 1993, on an undergraduate study abroad program, and have been returning to this part of the world ever since. My earliest ethnographic work centered on ethnoveterinary practices and human-animal interactions, with a specific focus on the role of the horse in local culture and economy, as well as in religious symbolism and ritual practice, as well as life in pastoral communities at moments of intense and rapid socio-economic change. The research I conducted at this time forms the basis of my ethnographic memoir, Horses Like Lightning: A Story of Passage Through the Himalayas. I am committed to writing across genres – from poetry and creative nonfiction to children’s literature and narrative ethnography.
In Press(2015). (Co)Producing Efficacious Medicines: Collaborative Event Ethnography with Himalayan and Tibetan Sowa Rigpa Practitioners. C. Blaikie, S. Craig, B. Gerke, and T. Hofer. Current Anthropology.
2014. Depopulation on a Himalayan Scale: Educational and Monastic Child Migration from Ethnically Tibetan Valleys in Nepal. G. Childs, S. Craig, C. Beall, B. Basnyet. Mountain Research and Development 34(2): 85-94.
2014. Tibetan Medicine in the World: Local Scenes, Global Transformations. In T. Hofer, ed. Bodies in Balance: The Art of Tibetan Medicine. Seattle: University of Washington Press, pp. 110-125.
2013. The Many Faces of a Teacher: Portrait of a Himalayan Healer. In L. Pordié and E. Simon, eds. Les neuveau guérisseurs comtemporains. Le néo-traditionalisme thérapeutique en biographies. Paris: Editions de l’EHESS.
2013 Children’s Medicines in Tanzania: A National Survey of Administration Practices and Preferences. L.V. Adams, S. Craig, E.J. Mmbaga, H. Naburi, T. Lahey, C. Nutt, R. Kisenge, G.J. Noel, S.P. Spielberg. PLoS One. Online open access: http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0058303.
2012 Social Suffering and Embodied Political Crisis. Cultural Anthropology, special “Hot Spots” online issue on self-immolations in Tibet, R. Litzinger and C. McGrannahan, eds. Online access: http://www.culanth.org/?q=node/526 .
2012 Healing Elements: Efficacy and the Social Ecologies of Tibetan Medicine. Berkeley: University of California Press.
2011 Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity 5(2), special issue on Medicinal Plant Cultivation, Conservation and Commoditization in the Himalaya and Tibet. S. Craig and D. Glover, eds. Leiden: Brill.
2011 Effectiveness of a sports-based HIV prevention intervention in the Dominican Republic: a quasi experimental study. Z. Kaufman, RL Welsch, JD Erickson, S. Craig, L.V. Adams, D.A. Ross. AIDS Care DOI:10.1080/09540121.2011.608789.
2011 Migration, Social Change, Health, and the Realm of the Possible: Women’s Stories from Nepal to New York. Anthropology and Humanism 36(2):193-214.
2011 “Good” Manufacturing by Whose Standards? Remaking Quality, Safety, and Value in the Production of Tibetan Pharmaceuticals. Anthropological Quarterly 84(2): 331-378.
2010  “Not found in Tibetan Societies”: Culture, Childbirth, and a Politics of Life on the Roof of the World. Himalaya 30(1):46-60.
2010 Medicine Between Science and Religion: Explorations on Tibetan Grounds. V. Adams, M. Schrempf, and S. Craig eds. London and New York: Berghahn Books.
2010 Taking the MINI to Mustang, Nepal: Methodological and Epistemological Translations of Illness Narrative Interviews. S. Craig, L. Chase, and T.N. Lama. Anthropology and Medicine 17(1): 1-26.
2009 Pediatric Therapeutics and Medicine Administration in Resource Poor Settings: A Review of Barriers and an Agenda for Interdisciplinary Approaches to Improving Outcomes. S. Craig, L.V. Adams, S. Spielberg, and B. Campbell. Social Science and Medicine 69: 1681-1690.
2009 Pregnancy and Childbirth in Tibet: Knowledge, Perspectives, and Practices. In H. Selin, ed. Childbirth Across Cultures, New York: Springer, Pp. 145-160.
2009 Global Pharma in the Land of Snows: Tibetan Medicines and Identity Politics Across Nations, S. Craig and V. Adams. Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity 4(1): 1-28. Amsterdam: Brill.
2008 Horses Like Lightning: A Story of Passage through the Himalayas . Boston, MA: Wisdom Publications.