Ria Reis is Associate Professor in the department of Sociology and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Amsterdam and joint-director of the research program Anthropology of Health, Care and the Body at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research (AISSR). She is Professor of medical anthropology at Leiden University Medical Center, department of Public Health and Primary Care (LUMC/PHEG) and Fellow of the African Studies Centre in Leiden, the Netherlands.
Originally a cultural anthropologist (VU, 1987, cum laude) - her graduate research was on the position of Tibetan Buddhist women in Ladakh, India - Reis’s doctoral research took her to medical anthropology and neuropsychiatry. In Swaziland, where she lived from 1985-89, she investigated traditional healing and the treatment gap for epilepsy and therapy choices of people with seizures. In the nineteen nineties she was involved in projects on concepts of epilepsy in the Netherlands, epilepsy stigma in Vietnam and China, and in many other projects on chronic illness and disability in different cultural settings.
Over the past 15 years her research shifted to children and youth’s health and wellbeing. Her focus is on the trans-generational transference of vulnerabilities in contexts of inequality and (post)conflict, and on young people’s health perceptions and strategies. Currently she is developing an applied research program on child idioms of distress as expressions of communal social suffering in regions affected by epidemics, disasters, conflicts and violence. Her graduate and doctoral students work on these issues in all continents, but particularly in Africa.
A second research focus is the articulation of ethnography within multidisciplinary research and interventions, particularly in collaborative projects with partners in policy and practice. Examples are her involvement in: The social science research of ‘MaxART: Towards Better Health and Zero New HIV Infections’, aimed at bolstering HIV prevention efforts in Swaziland, a Dutch Postcode Lottery funded project in which the University of Amsterdam collaborates with the Ministry of Swaziland, Stop Aids Now, Clinton Health Access Initiative, GNP+, SafAIDS and SACEMA; ‘Healthy Cities for Children’, a Sanpad funded project with the Children’s Institute, University of Cape Town, South Africa; and at the LUMC the ‘Academic Collaborative Center Public Health - youth North South-Holland’ (AWP-j NZH). One of the projects, chaired by Reis, aims to adjust preventative interventions to the needs of migrant and low SES families with worries about parenting in The Hague, through mixed method research.