Robin Root

Associate Professor

Email: robbieroot@gmail.com

Phone: 646 312-4481
Fax: 646 312-4461
Location: VC 4254

Robin Root is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania (BA and MA, Chinese Studies); Harvard University (MPH, Population and International Health); and the University of California at Los Angeles (PhD, Anthropology).

As a medical anthropologist, Dr. Root examines the interface among socio-cultural anthropology, political economy, and global public health in order to advance the social scientific understanding of risk and to inform health and development programs. Using ethnographic and formal qualitative research methods, her work investigates how individuals and communities negotiate diverse risks to wellbeing; establish social networks; navigate illness-related stigmas; and seek treatment amidst larger scale structural vulnerabilities. In October 2007, she received the Steven Polgar Prize, which is awarded to a professional medical anthropologist for the best paper published in Medical Anthropology Quarterly, the journal of record for the Society for Medical Anthropology.

A Fulbright Scholar in Malaysia, Dr. Root conducted ethnographic research inside factories and around export processing zones to investigate the Malaysian government's labeling of factories as high risk for HIV/AIDS. Her publications describe how the globalization of capital, labor, and disease produced 1) a moral imagination of HIV risk that expressed Malaysia's anxieties of a post-colonial modernity, 2) real threats to local, migrant, and immigrant women's wellbeing. The research was supported by a National Institute of Mental Health AIDS Training Grant.

Her current research in Swaziland is a longitudinal study of religion, specifically Christianity, as an under-theorized and highly politicized public health asset with untapped programmatic potential in an environment of extreme suffering. Since 2005, Dr. Root has been investigating HIV/AIDS using household surveys, semi-structured questionnaires, and in-depth interviews with HIV positive individuals, Swazi pastors, traditional healers, clinic physicians and nurses, as well as AIDS support group leaders to examine: 1) perceived stigma among HIV positive individuals; 2) local churches as complex post-colonial institutions that may mediate (or exacerbate) health risks, structural vulnerabilities, and stigma. Religion and HIV/AIDS is a subject of heightened interest in academic and policy arenas, given that Christian faith-based organizations have become the double-edged sword in the war on AIDS; on the one hand lauded as the future of effective local care and, on the other, indicted as nothing less than a neocolonialist attempt to control the minds, bodies, and sexual/reproductive relationships of people in poor countries.

Prior to joining the Baruch College faculty, Dr. Root was a Visiting Scholar at New York University in the office of the Dean of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, where she launched an initiative to strengthen multidisciplinary HIV/AIDS research collaborations between universities and community organizations in New York City and South Africa. As a research associate at Harvard Business School, Dr. Root drew on her field research in Malaysia to co-author case studies with HBS faculty on marketing in the Middle East. She subsequently joined a health care consulting firm with a research team of physicians and senior executives to co-author Best Practices publications on hospital and clinical care management in the US that are used nationwide.

Awards: Dr. Root has received the Steven Polgar Prize, awarded to the best paper published in the journal of record of the Society for Medical Anthropology, Medical Anthropology Quarterly (2007). She received a Whiting Fellowship Award (2007) for excellence in the teaching of the humanities at Baruch College. At the Harvard School of Public Health, she was the student commencement speaker (1994) where she spoke on the importance of reconceptualizing and incorporating socioeconomic status into public health research and practice. She currently co-chairs the Committee for Human Rights for the American Anthropological Association, where she also established a taskforce on Health & Human Rights.

Selected Publications:

Journal articles and book chapters

Root, Robin and Alan Whiteside. A qualitative study of community home-based care and antiretroviral adherence in Swaziland. Journal of the International AIDS Society 16:17978. Click for article.

Root, Robin. "Free love: a case study of church-run home-based caregivers in a high vulnerability setting". Global Public Health. 6 Suppl 2:S174-91, 2011.

Root, Robin. "Situating PLWHA Experiences of HIV-related Stigma in Swaziland". Global Public Health: An International Journal for Research, Policy and Practice. 5(5): 1744-1692, 2010.

Root, Robin. "Being Positive in Church: Religious Participation and HIV Disclosure Rationale Among People Living with HIV/AIDS in Rural Swaziland." African Journal of AIDS Research 8(3): 295-309, 2009.

Root, Robin. "Hazarding Health: Experiences of Body, Work, and Risk Among Factory Women in Malaysia." Health Care for Women International. 30(10): 903-918, 2009.

Root, Robin. 'Controlling Ourselves, By Ourselves': Risk Assemblages on Malaysia's Assembly Lines." Medical Anthropology: Cross-Cultural Studies in Health and Illness 27(4): 405-434, 2008.

Root, Robin. "Mixing' as an Ethnoetiology for HIV/AIDS in Malaysia's Multinational Factories." Medical Anthropology Quarterly 20(3): 321-344, 2006. (Steven Polgar Prize)

Root, Robin. "AIDS as Occupational Hazard: Racial Mixing and Historical Space in Malaysia's Multinationals." History and Anthropology 17(1): 73-90, 2006.

Root, Robin and Carole Browner. "Practices of the Pregnant Self: Compliance With and Resistance to Prenatal Norms." Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 25: 195-223, 2001.

Root, Robin and Alan Whiteside. Foreword. Religion and HIV and AIDS: Charting the Terrain. Edited by Beverly Haddad. Durban, South Africa: University of KwaZulu-Natal Press, 2011.

Root, Robin and Carole Browner. "Anthropology/Sociology: The Cultural Context of Reproductive Health." Encyclopedia of Public Health. Edited by Kris Heggenhougen. San Diego, CA: Elsevier Inc. 2008.

Reports and case studies

"That's When Life Changed": PLWHA Experiences of Church Run Home-Based Care in Swaziland. A Report for the Health Economics and HIV/AIDS Research Division, University of KwaZulu-Natal. October 2011. Click for PDF

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