Associate Professor, Director of Graduate Studies
B.A., Anthropology, Biology, Lawrence University, 1998
M.A., Cultural Anthropology, University of Florida, 2001
Ph.D., Cultural Anthropology, University of Illinois-Chicago, 2006
Dr. Smith-Oka is a cultural and medical anthropologist who specializes on the effect of institutions (medical, economic, development) 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.
She currently has three projects: (1) an investigation of the transmission of knowledge and attitudes to medical students in Mexico; (2) an analysis of renewed perceptions of indigeneity among college-educated indigenous youth in eastern Mexico; and (3) an investigation into the effects of obstetric violence among women living in an urban slum in Kenya.
She is interested in undergraduate and graduate students who want to work in the following topics: medical anthropology; the culture of medicine; anthropology of reproduction; motherhood and maternity; social network analysis; cultural consensus analysis. She is interested in graduate applicants who want training in cutting-edge methods and theories.