Rebecca Upton

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Rebecca Upton

Professor of Global Public and Environmental Health

Department/Office Information

Global Public & Environmental Health, Africana and Latin American Studies, Global Public and Environmental Health
130 Ho Science Center

I am a medical anthropologist and global health scholar and am committed to research in southern Africa on issues of gender, migration, reproductive health and the implications of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. My work has been supported over the years by the J. William Fulbright foundation and the Andrew Mellon foundation among others, for original field research in Botswana on the intersections between culture and health in an era of HIV/AIDS in southern Africa. I continue to focus on fertility, reproductive health, and the implications for HIV/AIDS prevention, health disparities and economic policies in southern African contexts. My recent projects include an investigation of the ethics of ARV (anti-retroviral) care for HIV+ Zimbabwean refugees in Dukwi, Botswana and the politics of transnational ‘fertility migrants’ who seek ART (assisted reproductive technologies) throughout southern Africa. I am currently planning research on gender, memory and global environmental health in Micronesia where I grew up.

B.A. Colgate University ~ 1992 Sociology & Anthropology and Africana Studies (Honors and High Honors) 

M.A. Brown University ~ 1994 Anthropology ~ Thesis title: “Making Ends Meet: Networks of Care Among Women of Color in New Orleans”

Ph.D. Brown University ~ 1999 Medical Anthropology ~ Dissertation title: “Our Blood Does Not Agree: Negotiating Infertility in Northern Botswana”

M.P.H. Emory University ~ 2014 Prevention Science ~ Thesis title: “Perceptions of Risk and the Management of Miscarriage Among Underserved Populations and Health Care Providers in Indiana: A Case Study Perspective” 

As a professor of Sociology and Anthropology and in Global Health, I teach a range of courses including an Introduction to Anthropology, An Introduction to Africana Studies; Culture, Medicine & Health: An Introduction to Medical Anthropology, The Anthropology of Death, The Anthropology of Gender, American Culture, the History of Anthropological Theory, The Idea of Africa in Museum Studies, and Public Health in Africa. I teach a range of first-year seminar courses such as Tattoo, Torture and Adornment in Cross Cultural Context and an Interdisciplinary course on the HIV/AIDS Epidemic. Together with a collaborator and colleague in BioChemistry I built the interdisciplinary program in Global Health at DePauw University for undergraduate majors and regularly teach Introduction to Global Health courses and Senior Seminar: Epidemics and Inequalities. I am also an Affiliated Faculty member at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University and teach the core required course, Qualitative Research Methods for public health graduate students and regularly oversee graduate thesis projects and practica.



2016 Upton, Rebecca L. Negotiating Work, Family, and Identity among Long-Haul Christian Truck Drivers: What Would Jesus Haul? Lexington Books: Rowman & Littlefield Press. [reviewed in the American Journal of Sociology Vol. 124 No. 3 Nov 2018 pp. 982-984]

2021  Upton, Rebecca L. Our Blood Does Not Agree: An Ethnography of HIV/AIDS Prevention Programs in Botswana, Oxford University Press, special series on Globalization. (forthcoming)

2021  Upton, Rebecca L. Women’s Livelihoods and Gendered Resistance in Botswana: Patterns and Production in Women’s Basketry Cooperatives. Routledge Press. (forthcoming)

2021 Upton, Rebecca L., Emma J. Broming, Lee O. Upton. Women Entrepreneurs and Social Networks: Promises and Pitfalls in the Work/Family Balance. Lexington Books/Rowman & Littlefield. (forthcoming)

Peer Reviewed and Invited Articles:

2020 Upton, Rebecca L. Pink Permits and Reproductive Products: Transnational Fertility Migrants and the Invisible Impacts of COVID-19 Medical Anthropology Quarterly. 19 June 2020. products-transnational-fertility-migrants-and-the-invisible-impacts-of-covid-19/

2020 Upton, Rebecca L. Global Health at the Local Level: Innovative Approaches for Preventing HIV/AIDS Among Adolescent Girls in Botswana – Evidence from an Evaluation Study on Perceptions of Cross Generational Sex and Edu-tainment Strategies, In Reinventing and Reinvesting in the Local for Our Common Good. Brian Hoey, ed.University of Tennessee Press. Pp. 99-123

2019 Upton, Rebecca L., Emma J. Broming, and Lee O. Upton. Nascent Women Entrepreneurs and the Influence of Social Networks on Small Business Outcomes. Journal of Small Business and Entrepreneurship Development. Vol. 7 No. 1. Pp. 1-17. June.

2019 Upton, R.L. A Qualitative Study of the Experience of Miscarriage from Patients and Providers in the Rural U.S. Journal of Community and Public Health Nursing. 5:1. DOI: 4172/2471-9846.1000224

2019 Upton, Rebecca L. Illness and Healing: Africanist Anthropology. In A Companion to the Anthropology of Africa, Roy Richard Grinker, Stephen C. Lubkemann, Christopher Steiner and Euclides Gonçalves, eds. Wiley-Blackwell. Pp. 97-117.

2018 Upton, Rebecca L. Perceptions of Infertility as a Barrier to Cervical Cancer Screening in Rural Botswana: A Qualitative Study. Journal of Community Medicine and Health Education 8: 634. DOI:10.4172/2161-0711.1000634

2017 Upton, Rebecca L. The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream. By Steve Viscelli. In Contemporary Sociology. Volume: 46 issue: 6, page(s): 723-725.

2017 Upton, Rebecca L. ARV Adherence vs. Cultural Compliance: HIV/AIDS Drug Therapy and Decision-Making among PLWHA in Rural Botswana. Journal of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Diseases. 3:1-6.

2017 Upton, Rebecca L. Tortoise Knees and Giraffe Tears: Patterns, Production, and Resistance in a Women’s Basketry Cooperative in Botswana. In Innovation, Transformation and Sustainable Futures in Africa: Proceedings. Dakar, Senegal. June 1- 4, 2016. American Anthropological Association. ISBN: 978-931303-58-3.

2016 Upton, Rebecca L. Fat Eggs and Fit Bodies. Contexts. Journal of the American Sociological Association. Vol. 15., No. 4, pp. 24-29. Fall.

2015 Upton, R.L. HIV Prevention, Infertility and Concordance in Partner Selection Among Couples Living with HIV/AIDS in Rural and Peri-Urban Contexts in Botswana. Journal of AIDS and Clinical Research 6:526. November. doi:10.4172/2155-6113.1000526

2015 Upton, Rebecca L. What Would Jesus Haul? Home, Work and the Politics of Masculinity Among Christian Long-Haul Truck Drivers. In Work and Family in the New Economy. Samantha K. Ammons and Erin L. Kelly eds. Research in the Sociology of Work, Vol. 26, pp. 101-126. U.K.: Emerald Publishing.

2012 Upton, Rebecca L. Using Fertility, Useful Infertility: Cross-Cultural Perspectives on the Value of Children. In The End of Children: Changing Trends in Childbearing and Childhood. Graham Allen and Nathanael Lauster eds. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, pp. 54-69.

2011 Upton, Rebecca L. Pedagogy of the Obsessed: IVF and How the Search for Fertility Affects a Feminist Self in the Classroom. In Maternal Pedagogies, Fiona Green and Deborah Byrd eds. Demeter Press. pp. 30-39.

2011 Upton, Rebecca L. Gender. Oxford University Press Online Bibliography in Anthropology, John L. Jackson editor. Oxford Bibliographies.

2011 Upton, R. L. Sterility and Stigma in an Era of HIV/AIDS: Narratives of Risk Assessment Among Men and Women in Botswana. African J of Reproductive Health. 15(1): 95-102.

2010 Upton, Rebecca L. Promising the Permanent Condom: Fertility Fears and Fatal Outcomes as a Result of Voluntary Adult Male Circumcision in HIV/AIDS Botswana. PULA: Journal of Research in Botswana. 24(1): 101-117.

2010 Upton, Rebecca L. Fat Eggs: Gender and Fertility as Factors in HIV/AIDS Prevention in Botswana. Gender & Development. Nov. 18:3. Special Issue on Food, pp.515-24.

2010 Upton, Rebecca L. and Sallie S. Han. (orig. 2003). Maternity and Its Discontents: “Getting the Body Back” After Pregnancy. Reprinted inSociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life Readings, 8th ed., edited by David M. Newman and Jodi O’Brien. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press. pp. 127-133.

2006 Upton, Rebecca L. Women Have No Tribe: Connecting Carework, Gender and Migration in an Era of HIV/AIDS in Botswana in Global Dimensions of Gender and Carework. Mary K. Zimmerman, Jacquelyn S. Litt, and Christine E. Bose eds. Stanford: Stanford University Press. pp. 277-286.

2004 Upton, Rebecca L. The Tswana. In Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender. C. Ember and M. Ember eds. New York: Human Relations Area Files/Kluwer Press. pp. 922-930.

2003 Upton, Rebecca L. and Sallie S. Han. Maternity and Its Discontents: ‘Getting the Body Back’ After Pregnancy. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. Vol. 32 No. 6 December. pp.670-93.

2003 Upton, Rebecca L. Women Have No Tribe: Connecting Carework, Gender and Migration in an Era of HIV/AIDS in Botswana. Gender and Society, special issue on Global Perspectives on Gender and Carework. Vol. 17 No. 2 April pp. 314-322.

2002 Upton, Rebecca L. Perceptions of Male Infertility and Connections with the HIV Virus: Implications for Female Reproductive Health in Northern Botswana. African Journal of Reproductive Health. Vol. 6 No. 3 December pp. 103-111.

2001 Upton, Rebecca L. Infertility Makes You Invisible: Gender, Health and the Negotiation of Childbearing in Northern Botswana. Journal of Southern African Studies. Vol. 27 No. 2. pp. 349-362.

1996 Upton, Rebecca L. Negotiating the ‘Awkward Relationship’: Discourse on Gender and Medicine in Sub-Saharan Africa. Crosscurrents: Journal of Graduate Research in Anthropology Volume VIII, August. pp. 49-57.

1995 Upton, Rebecca L. Women’s Solidarity and Struggles in Nigeria. Journal of Third World Affairs. Providence, Center for the Comparative Study of Development, Watson Institute for International Research. Spring. pp.8-12.

Additional Publication:

2014 Upton, Rebecca L. The Language We Use (Regarding my letter from online publication/blogpost for Mothering in the Middle, Cyma Shapiro, ed. July 5, 2014 access at:

Book Reviews:

2019 Upton, Rebecca L. Book review of Medicine in the Meantime: The Work of Care in Mozambique. by Ramah McKay, Duke University Press. Anthropological Quarterly. Vol. 92, No. 2, p. 597–600, ISSN 0003-5491

2014 Upton, Rebecca L. Book review of Globalization and Transnational Surrogacy in India: Outsourcing Life edited by Sayantani DasGupta and Shamita Das DasGupta. Gender & Society first published on November 14, 2014 as doi:10.1177/0891243214559415

2009 Upton, Rebecca L. Book review of Civilizing Women: British Crusades in Colonial Sudan. by Janice Boddy, Princeton Univ. Press Anthropological Quarterly 82:3 p. 865-68.

2003 Upton, Rebecca L. Book review of Stress and Resilience: The Social Context of Reproduction in Central Harlem. Leith Mullings and Alaka Wali. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers. American Ethnologist. Vol. 30 No. 3 August pp. 471-2.

2001 Upton, Rebecca L. Book Review of Tricksters and Trancers: Bushman Religion and Society. Mathias Guenther. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 1999. Africa Today. Vol. 47 No. 3 4. Pp. 193-195.

1999 Upton, Rebecca L. Book Review of Gender, Population and Politics: Demographic Change in Rural North India. Roger Jefferey and Patricia Jefferey. New York: Cambridge University Press. 1997. American Anthropologist. Vol. 102. No. 2 June Pp. 395-6.

2020 Visiting Distinguished Professor ~ A. Lindsay O’Connor Chair of American Institutions ~ Sociology & Anthropology and Africana and Latin American Studies, Colgate University

2020 J. William Fulbright US Scholar Lecturing/Research Fellow - University of Botswana, Centre for the Study of HIV/AIDS (delayed due to COVID-19)

2016 Kranbuehl, Roberts, Hilger Endowed Faculty Award “A Pre-test Trial of the Pill Count Measurement (PCM) Instrument to Assess ARV Adherence in Botswana”

2016 Faculty Innovation Grant – “Power, Privilege & Diversity: Developing Pedagogy and Practice in Global Health – a Guide to Resources”. DePauw University

2016 Project consultant on grant for Research on Millennial Women Entrepreneurs from the National Women’s Business Council SBAHQ-16-Q-0050 Submitted with Premier Quantitative Consulting, Inc., Emma J. Broming (PI) DUNS Number: 079240061 National Women’s Business Council (awarded May 2016)

2015 Edwin J. Minar Award for Scholarship - in recognition of exceptional scholarly achievement – one faculty award per year, DePauw University

2014 Project grant for Social Network Analysis and Women Entrepreneurs from the National Women’s Business Council SBAHQ-14-Q-0042 DUNS Number: 079240061

2013 Carolyn T. Jones Endowed Stipend Award – DePauw University – course development for ANTH 390 – Public Health in Africa: Seminar in Community Needs Assessment

2013 Asher Fund Award – DePauw University – support for fieldwork in Botswana (January 2014) on the “Ethics and Surveillance Practice of ARV Therapy for Zimbabwean HIV+ Immigrants in the Dukwi Refugee Camp, Francistown, Botswana”

2012 “Mastering the Art of Public Health: An Anthropologist Goes to the Field of Medicine”, New Directions Initiative Grant, Andrew Mellon Foundation and Great Lakes College Association (GLCA)

2009 J. William Fulbright US Scholar Lecturing/Research Fellow-University of Botswana, Centre for the Study of HIV/AIDS and Department of Sociology, 2009-10

2009 Endowed Professor-Edward Myers Dolan Chair in Sociology & Anthropology 2009-14

2008 National Science Foundation (NSF) summer grant participant in Ethnographic Analysis/Qualitative Methods Camp – July

2007 Faculty/Student Summer grant for research project entitled, “Perceptions of Sex and Sexual Onset” with Amanda Fenn and Jamie Resseguie (undergraduate student collaborators and PIs), Prindle Institute for Ethics, DePauw University

2004 Faculty/Student Summer grant for research project entitled, “Documenting Lost Lives: Ethnography and Photography in HIV Botswana” with Christopher Reams (undergraduate student collaborator and PI), DePauw University and presented at the American Anthropological Association

2000 Institute for Research on Women and Gender-University of Michigan seed grant

2002 Andrew Mellon Foundation Grant - research on HIV/AIDS, gender, fertility and Changing family structure in Northern Botswana - Population Studies Center, University of Michigan.

1999 - 2003 Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Post-Doctoral Fellowship - Center for the Ethnography of Everyday Life and the Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.


2020 "Infertility Makes You Invisible (Especially in a Pandemic): COVID19 and the Impact on Transnational Fertility Migration." Special Session on COVID in the Continent. African Studies Association. Annual Meeting. Washington DC (virtual). November 19-21. 

2019 “Motifs and Migrant Worlds: Patterns, Production, and Gendered Resistance in Botswana Basketry”, invited paper/session – American Anthropological Association annual meeting, Vancouver, Canada. November 21.

2018 “Fertility Migrants: Reproduction and Transnational Technologies in Southern Africa”. Paper presentation/ session Chair, African Studies Assoc. annual meeting, November 29.

2017 “ARV Adherence vs. Cultural Compliance: HIV/AIDS Drug Therapy and Decision- Making in Botswana”. Session on Health, Development and Humanitarian Aid Across Africa. American Anthropological Association. Annual Meeting. November 30.

2017 with Emma J. Broming, “Women Entrepreneurs and Social Networks: Promises and Pitfalls in the Work/Family Balance”. Session on New Developments in the Study of Inequality and Social Mobility. Midwest Sociological Society. Annual Meeting. April 1.

2016. "Anthropological Interrogations of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals”, Invited Participant and Session, Africanist Association of the American Anthropological Association. Annual Meeting. Minneapolis, November 16-20.

2016 “Tortoise Knees and Giraffe Tears: Patterns, Production and Resistance in a Women’s Basketry Cooperative in Botswana”. Presented at the African Studies Association/American Anthropological Association meeting in Dakar, Senegal. June 1-4.

2015 “From Radio Disease to AIDS Fatigue: The Future of HIV/AIDS and Anthropology in Botswana” AAA invited paper presentation, part of invited session on AIDS and Anthropology: Has the Strange Become too Familiar?. American Anthropological Association annual meeting, Denver, CO.

2015 “Freezing the Future Family: The Next Generation of Fertility Policies and Workplace Practices”. Paper presented at the Midwest Sociological Society annual meeting.

2014 “From Infertility to E-Fertility: Twitter and Transnational Reproductive Migrants in Southern Africa” in invited session on Digital Diasporas: African Migrants, Mediated Communication and Transnational Identities. American Anthropological Association.

2014 “Violence or Voluntary (Male Circumcision): Colonial Ideology and Contemporary Irony in Tswana Hiv/Aids Prevention”, part of the session on Rights vs. Privileges: Health Decisions, at the 57th Annual Meeting of the African Studies Association.

2014 “What Would Jesus Haul: Work, Family and Masculinity Among Christian Long-Haul Truckers”. Invited paper, part of session on Work and Family in the New Economy. Work and Family Research Network conference. New York City.

2013 “Test-tube Transnationalism: Fertility Migrants and Reproductive Refugees in Southern Africa”, American Anthropological Association annual meeting, Chicago, IL.

2013 “What Would Jesus Haul? Re-thinking Work and Family Obligations Among Christian Long-Haul Truck Drivers” – Masculinities/Gender and Sexuality session – American Sociological Association – New York City, NY.

2013 “The Conflicts of Cutting: Contemporary Ethics and Historical Ironies of Male Circumcision in Botswana” American Ethnological Society annual meeting, Chicago, IL.

2012 “Diamond (Mines) are a Mother’s Best Friend: Paradoxical Policies and the Politics of ARV Therapy in Southern Africa”, American Anthropological Association annual meeting, invited paper for Politics, Development and Human Rights special session.

2011 “From Locusts to Ladies Men: Masculinity and Male Circumcision as HIV/AIDS Prevention in Southern Africa”, invited guest speaker at Michigan State University.

Participant and Session, Africanist Association of the American Anthropological Association. Annual Meeting. Minneapolis, November 16-20.

2011 “Sterility and Stigma: Narratives of Risk Among Men and Women in HIV/AIDS Botswana”, invited guest lecture, Centre for the Study of HIV and AIDS, University of Botswana, Gaborone.

2010 “Promising the Permanent Condom: HIV/AIDS and Voluntary Male Circumcision in Botswana”, paper presented at the American Anthropological Association annual meeting, New Orleans, LA.

2010 “HAART Means Women Have No Tribe: Gender, Migration and Caregiving in an Era of Anti-retrovirals in Botswana”, paper presented at NHASORC conference, Gaborone, Botswana.

2009 “Some Ethical Considerations and Implications of HIV/AIDS and Infertility: Sterility and Stigma in the Study of Health Care in Northern Botswana” poster for the conference, Putting a Human Face on Health Care – University of Botswana/US Navy Medical Center conference, Gaborone, Botswana.

2009 “From Initiation to Infertility: Social Factors in the Discourse of Stigma, Sterility and Circumcision Practices Among Young Men in Botswana”, Social Aspects of HIV/AIDS Research Alliance (SAHARA) conference, Johannesburg, RSA.

2007 “Useful Fertility, Using Infertility: Cross Cultural Values on the Imperatives of Children” paper presented at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.

2007 “The Next One Changes Everything” – invited paper at the Population Studies Training Center and Departments of Sociology and Anthropology, Brown University, Providence, RI.

2007 “Anxiety on 18 Wheels: Work and Family Obligations Among Long Haul Truck Drivers”, Midwest Sociological Society, Chicago, IL.

2006 “From Violence to Anti Virals: Dangerous Intersections Between AIDS and Migration in Northern Botswana”, American Anthropological Association meeting. San Jose, CA.

2005 “Documenting Lost Lives: The Past as Present in HIV/AIDS Botswana”. American Anthropological Association meeting, Washington, D.C.

2005 “Sex, Culture, Marriage and Childbearing: Sexual Revolutions Through the 20th Century In the United States”, (with Nathanael T. Lauster) Midwest Sociological Society, Minneapolis, MN.

2005 “Redefining and Measuring Sexual Revolutions with Examples from Sweden, US and Africa” poster presentation with Nathanael T. Lauster, Population Association of America.

2004 “Everything I Needed to Know About Myself I Learned at Their Kitchen Table”, paperpresented at the Midwest Sociological Society annual meeting, Kansas City, MO.

2003 “Peace-Keeping on the AIDS Frontier: Women and ‘Well-Being’ in Northern Botswana” paper presented at the American Anthropological Association Meeting, Chicago, IL.

2003 “You Should Know That Already!: Fieldwork and Foolish Questions in American Ethnography”, presented at the American Ethnological Society in Providence, RI,

2002 “Researching Infertility: Imagining Future Research and Agendas”. Roundtable presenter and organizer. American Sociological Assocation annual meeting. Chicago, IL..

2002 “Imaginable Africa: Place, Theory and Some Ideas About African Identities”. Panel Chair and Organizer. American Anthropological Association. New Orleans, LA.

2000 “When the Womb has Gone to the Head: Infertility, Mental Illness and the Gendered Construction of Suffering in Northern Botswana”. American Anthropological Association meeting. Washington, D.C. Invited Panel, “Suffering, The Body and Religion.”