Sandra Widmer
Department of
Profile Research AN3030 AN3230 AN4560




Fascinated by the process of archival work, Sandra Widmer combed British and French colonial collections for how anthropology and medicine were part of colonial projects.  From this, she demonstrated how researchers' understandings of demographic decline in early 20th century Vanuatu legitimated colonial interventions on marriage customs to increase fertility.  You can read more about this here.

From the reports of ni-Vanuatu physicians between 1930’s-1950’s-rare colonial examples of Pacific Islanders’ accounts-, she has written how their medical work contributed to their citizenship demands from the colonial powers as well as the expansion of colonial rule.


Alexandra is beginning a new project on ethical handling of genetic material of Relatives of the Disappeared in Chile. The project will examine how the collection of DNA links genetics with a nation’s memory and how the storage of DNA performs kinship relationships and human rights.

From 2009-2013 Prof. Widmer was a research scholar at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin.  She earned her PhD at York University.

Selected Publications:
Forthcoming November 2013

Of Temporal Politics and Demographic Anxieties: ‘Young mothers’ in Demographic Predictions and Social Life in Vanuatu. Anthropologica. Special Issue “Time and the Expert”.  

2013  Diversity as Valued and Troubled: Social Identities and Demographic Categories in understandings of rapid urban growth in Vanuatu. Anthropology and Medicine 20(2). Special Issue “Medical Crisis and Diversification”.

2013      Seeing Health Like a Colonial State: Pacific Island Assistant Medical Practitioners and Nascent Biomedical Citizenship in the New Hebrides. In Senses and Citizenships: Embodying Political Life, ed. S. Trnka, J. Park and C. Dureau. New York: Routledge.

2011 Making Mothers: The Changing Relationships of Birth and Raising Children in Pango Village, Vanuatu. In M. Walks (Ed.), An Anthropology of Mothering (pp. 102-114). Toronto: Demeter Press.





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