I am an Associate Professor of Anthropology at the University of Cape Town.
Interests and Current Research Projects
I am a social anthropologist with a BA, BCom and MA from the University of Otago in my native New Zealand, and a PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London. My doctoral research continued my interest in gender and religion by investigating witch accusations in Chhattisgarh, central India. Drawing on 25 years on research I recently published a manuscript Witch Accusations from Central India: The Fragmented Urn. This book positions witchcraft in light of current dialogues around modernity, post colonialism, violence and where alternative beliefs to those imagined as rational can and should be engaged, yet extends the conversation beyond the African continent where very little attention has been focused.
For the last decade I have led a research project entitled The Social Markers of TB that has worked with ethnographic research methods to understand TB infected persons, their families, care providers, and social networks. This international Medical Humanities project in partnership with community led NGOs in both South Africa and India was an important and valuable foundation in bridging anthropology with other disciplines to try to bring further insight to the controversial issues surrounding TB.
My new research interests look at the way parents have allied (or not) with their transgender children and with many others to better understand, explain, and undo structural transphobia and the intersection with gendered and racialized discrimination. It seeks to understand how transgender people’s lives are being medicalized and how transgender people have been defined and continue to be defined by the medical system.
My interests span a variety of subfields in Anthropology, including belief and symbolism, mining studies, the social life of Tuberculosis, transgender allayship, and medical anthropology.
I am a passionate teacher at undergraduate and post-graduate levels and supervise a wide variety of post-graduate research projects.
Macdonald, H. (2021) Witch Accusations from Central India: The Fragmented Urn, Routledge: London.
Macdonald, H. and Harper, I. (eds.) (2020) Understanding Tuberculosis and its Control, Routledge: London.
Macdonald, H., Mason, P. and I Harper 2020. Introduction: Persistent Pathogen, In Helen Macdonald and Ian Harper’s (eds.) Understanding Tuberculosis and its Control, Routledge: London.
Macdonald, H. 2020. Using local statistics to tinker with TB treatment in a central Indian clinic, In Helen Macdonald and Ian Harper’s (eds.) Understanding Tuberculosis and its Control, Routledge: London.
Dixon, J. and Macdonald, H. (eds.) 2018 Special Issue, Anthropology Southern Africa, 41(4)
Dixon, J. and Macdonald, H. 2018 Globalised tuberculosis control in local worlds, Anthropology Southern Africa, 41(4): 247-256
Macdonald, H. 2018. Reflections on teaching critical anthropology in physiotherapy, pp. 95-107. In Susan Levine’s (ed.) At the Foot of the Volcano. HSRC Press: Cape Town.
Levine, S. and H. Macdonald 2018. ‘Looking beyond the microscope’: Rethinking pedagogy for health science students learning medical anthropology, pp.134-148. In Susan Levine’s (ed.) At the Foot of the Volcano. HSRC Press: Cape Town.
Mutendi, M. and Macdonald, H. 2018 ‘We are like bubble gum’: Perceptions of TB among South African gold miners. Anthropology Southern Africa, 41(4): 284-295
Macdonald, H., Abney, K., Abrams A. and C. Truyts, 2016. Challenges in Exploratory Methods for TB Research in South Africa, Qualitative Health Research, 26(8):1123–1136.
Macdonald, H. 2015. Skillful revelation: Local healers, rationalists and their ‘trickery’ in Chhattisgarh, Central India, Medical Anthropology: Cross-Cultural Studies in Health and Illness, 34(6): 485-500.