SSRI News Fall 2008 > News Feature

News Feature

Highlighting Dr. Nina Etkin

Nina Etkin is Professor of Anthropology and Graduate Chair at the University of Hawaii, where she is one of three faculty who coordinates the Medical Anthropology concentration. She also holds an appointment in the Department of Ecology and Health, University of Hawaii Medical School. She earned a B.A. in Zoology from Indiana University and the M.A. and Ph.D. in Anthropology from Washington University-St. Louis.


Dr. Etkin is best known for her pioneering work on the pharmacologic implications of plant use, especially the interrelations among foods and medicines. Her research addresses both cultural and pharmacologic aspects of botanicals and human cultures, including polypharmacy and the role of complementary and alternative medicines in integrative medicine in the United States. Her work is framed by a biocultural perspective that explores both the physiologic implications of consumption and the cultural construction and social circulation of foods and medicines. She explores how people regard medicines and foods as both biodynamic substances and cultural objects. This overlaps with her work in ethnopharmacology, a transdisciplinary approach that spans the biological and social sciences (Gr., ethno-, culture or people; pharm-, drug). Dr. Etkin also treats issues of globalization and political economy to illustrate how different demographics are influenced by unequal access to resources such as food, medicine, and knowledge - asymmetries that influence a broad spectrum of health issues. She has conducted ethnographic research in rural villages in northern Nigeria and Maluku, eastern Indonesia; and in Honolulu.


Dr. Etkin's most recent books, all published by the University of Arizona Press, Tucson, include: Foods of Association: Biocultural Perspectives on Foods and Beverages that Mediate Sociability (In Press); Edible Medicines: An Ethnopharmacology of Food (2006; Paperback edition, 2007); Eating on the Wild Side: The Pharmacologic, Ecologic, and Social Implications of Using Noncultigens (1994).


Dr. Etkin was awarded the coveted University of Hawaii Regents Medal for Excellence in Research in 2001 and currently serves as the Associate Editor of Pharmaceutical Biology. Additionally, she reviews 20-25 manuscripts annually for a variety of journals.




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