Ellen Gruenbaum

Ellen Gruenbaum

Emeritus Faculty // Anthropology
Emeriti Faculty

Curriculum vitae

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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.



Women’s health issues, human rights, gender, religious practices, and development in Africa and the Middle East.

Ellen Gruenbaum is a culturally-oriented medical anthropologist. Her ethnographic research focuses on women’s health issues, gender, human rights, religious practices, and development in Africa and the Middle East. Using a feminist anthropological framework, she conducts research on female genital cutting practices and the change efforts promoting abandonment in Sudan and Sierra Leone, where she also served as a research consultant to UNICEF and CARE.

She also investigates cultural contexts affecting breast cancer responses and prevention possibilities, in Purdue’s international and cross-disciplinary project entitled International Breast Cancer and Nutrition, with collaborations in Ghana, Lebanon, and Uruguay.

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 of The Female Circumcision Controversy: An Anthropological Perspective (University of Pennsylvania Press) and numerous articles and book chapters. She serves on the editorial advisory board of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies.

Recent Publications:

2017 In March 2017, Ellen Gruenbaum presented the Michael J. Kearney Memorial Lecture at the Society for Applied Anthropology meetings in Santa Fe, NM, on "Extending Gendered Human Rights in a World of Harmful Global Practice".

2016 “Ethical Challenges for Social Media and Social Marketing in Sudan.” In Networks of Knowledge Production in Sudan: Identities, Mobilities, and Technologies, edited by Sondra Hale and Gada Kadoda. Lantham, MD: Lexington Books, pp. 63-78.

2015 “Epilogue: Harm and Well-Being: Cultural Practices and Harmful Global Practices.” In Longman, Chia, and Tamsin Bradley, eds., Interrogating Harmful Cultural Practices: Gender, Culture and Coercion. Farnham, England: Ashgate. Pp. 193-205.

2015 “Female Genital Cutting Debates.” (Second author: Elizabeth Wirtz). In The International Encyclopedia of Human Sexuality, edited by Patricia Whelehan and Anne Bolin. Malden, Oxford: John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.

2014 “Sondra Hale’s ‘Ethnographic Residuals’: Silence and non-Silence on Female Genital Cutting,” special issue, Scholar, Mentor, Activist: Sondra Hale’s Transnational Feminist Commitments, Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies 10,1 (Winter 2014), pp. 105-127.

2012 “Seven Things To Know About Female Genital Surgeries in Africa.” Public Policy Advisory Network on Female Genital Surgeries in Africa (15 authors), Hastings Center Report, vol. 42, issue 6, Nov.-Dec., pp. 19-27.

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