View Full Site


Ellen Gruenbaum

Ellen Gruenbaum

Department Head - Professor of Anthropology

Ellen Gruenbaum studied Anthropology at Stanford University (A.B.) and the University of Connecticut (M.A. 1974 and Ph.D. 1982).  She joined Purdue in 2008.  She previously served as Professor of Anthropology and Dean of the College of Social Sciences at California State University, Fresno.  She has also held teaching positions at the California State University, San Bernardino, University of Wisconsin College in Manitowoc, and the University of Khartoum, Sudan.

Office: STON 219
Office Phone: (765) 496-7422


Ellen Gruenbaum is a culturally-oriented medical anthropologist who has done ethnographic research with a special focus on women’s health issues, gender, religious practices, and development in Africa and the Middle East.  She has conducted research in Sudan and Sierra Leone on the practice of female genital cutting and the social movements against “harmful traditional practices.”  She has served as a research consultant to UNICEF and CARE on traditional health practices.


Cultural anthropology courses on cultural anthropology, including religion, gender, health, and post-colonial situations.  Africa and the Middle East.

Professional roles:

Her interest in the controversies among cultural self-determination, international human rights, and women’s rights led to her past service on the Committee for Human Rights of the American Anthropological Association and the Association for Feminist Anthropology.  She currently serves as the secretary of the Society for Medical Anthropology. Gruenbaum is the author ofThe Female Circumcision Controversy:  An Anthropological Perspective (University of Pennsylvania Press) and numerous articles and book chapters.  She serves on the editorial advisory board of theJournal of Middle East Women’s Studies.

Recent Publications:

Ellen Gruenbaum has just published an article in a special issue of the Journal of Middle East Women's Studies.(Vol. 10, No. 1, pp. 105-27) The issue honors noted UCLA anthropologist and Sudan scholar Sondra Hale:  "Scholar, Mentor, Activist:  Sondra Hale's Transnational Feminist Commitments."  Ellen Gruenbaum's article, entitled "Sondra Hale's 'Ethnographic Residuals'--Silence and Non-Silence on Female Genital Cutting," explores a controversial immigrant court case in Georgia, a performance art piece in Sweden, and the situation of Somali immigrants in Italy, to consider how we can "see our common humanity across the spectrum of human experience and engage in respectful collaboration on whatever part of oppression is within out collective reach."