I studied cultural anthropology at the University of Amsterdam, where I received my PhD in 1989. My early ethnographic research was on food taboos during pregnancy in India, witchraft explanations of illness and misfortune in Cameroon, and social determinants in euthanasia decision-making in a hospital the Netherlands. I then spent eight years in Tanzania and Uganda carrying out research relating to HIV/AIDS. This was followed by five years as a senior lecturer at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, where I taught medical anthropology and carried out research on the sociocultural aspects of malaria in Tanzania, The Gambia and Mozambique. From 2006-2013, as a research professor in medical anthropology at the Barcelona Centre for International Health Research (CRESIB), I led two large international projects in several African countries and Papua New Guinea on the sociocultural aspects of malaria prevention. I also coordinated the social science component of the UK-based Microbicides Development Programme, an international collaboration to develop and test vaginal microbicides for HIV prevention.
I joined the University of Amsterdam in 2010 as Professor of Social Science and Global Health and co-director of the Centre for Social Science and Global Health. From 2014-2015 I directed the Health, Care and the Body Research Programme Group and from 2015-2018 I was the head of the Anthropology Department. Between 2013 and 2018 I was also director of the Long-Term Care Partnership, a collaborative programme bringing together academic researchers, care providers and policy makers.
Recently completed research projects focused on migration and health, community health in Uganda and community engagement for malaria elimination in Haiti.
My current research is on devloping sustainable health interventions in resource-poor settings and on the cultural construction of wilderness.
I also teach anthropology and photography.
This is an ongoing project addressing the question: Can social roles, networks and processes be identified in poor and vulnerable communities in Uganda that could serve as a source of basic health information, skills and behaviours, and link vulnerable community members to existing healthresources?
This project addresses how people in contemporary Western society construct, conceptualise and represent nature as wild, what they do with this wild nature, and what it does does for them.