Susan Erikson

Associate Professor, Faculty of Health Sciences




  • BA, English and Education, Boston College
  • MA, Anthropology, University of Colorado-Boulder
  • PhD, Anthropology, University of Colorado-Boulder


Dr. Erikson is an anthropologist who has worked in Africa, Europe, Central Asia, and North America.   During a first international affairs career, Dr. Erikson worked for or with government departments and agencies on issues of international development, foreign policy, and trade.  As an academic, Dr. Erikson combines her practical work experience with a critical study of the relations of power informing global health scenarios. 

Dr. Erikson is the founding director of the Global Health Affairs Program at the Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver, and was voted Best Professor there in 2004. She joined the Faculty of Health Sciences at Simon Fraser University in 2007, where she was awarded the Graduate Teaching and Mentorship Excellence Award in 2012.  She won the Society for Medical Anthropology's (SMA) 2013 Virchow Prize for her publication, "Global Health Business: The Production and Performativity of Statistics in Germany and Sierra Leone," and contributed chapters to edited volumes that won SMA's Basker Prize in 2012 (Reproduction, Globalization, and the State) and two SMA Council for the Anthropology of Reproduction book awards in 2006 (Barren States) and 2012 (Reproduction, Globalization, and the State).  

During 2014-2015, Dr. Erikson was a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Global Cooperation Research at the University of Duisburg-Essen, Germany. In 2016, she will be a Mercator Fellow with the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) project, “Adaptation and Creativity in Africa: Technologies and Significations in the Production of Order and Disorder,” at the Universities of Leipzig and Halle, Germany.

Research Interests  

Dr. Erikson is an anthropologist of global health and conducts ethnographic research on global health futures, humanitarian aid, biomedical knowledge production, expertise, governmentality, and the political economy of global health, particularly data use and financing.  Early in her research career, Dr. Erikson's findings showed that health outcomes are inextricable from economic, political and techno-scientific interests. Her dissertation and early postdoctoral work focused on biomedical technology use in Germany. She continues to study how politics, business, and finance operate contemporaneously with biomedical clinical care and services the world over.  Dr. Erikson’s research has been funded by the Canadian Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), the US National Science Foundation (NSF), the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, the American Association of University Women (AAUW), the Institute for International Education (IIE), Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD), and others. 

In a 2008 Lancet article: “Getting Political: Fighting Smarter for Global Health,” Dr. Erikson argues for, first, greater attention to be paid to the political and economic ways that global health is done. Further, the article argues for actively developing partisan health experts willing to ‘get political’ to reduce suffering originating in the economic and policy architectures of global health. In a 2011 publication about global ethnography, she outlines a methodological approach – wholly anthropological in its orientation – with the capacity to identify these architectures. This work was written using German ethnographic health data. The methodology is applicable for people interested in global health who seek ethnographic evidence-based means to assess what is working to reduce human suffering and who may also want to upend the structures that, however unintentionally, hurt people.

Since Spring 2013, Dr. Erikson has conducted fieldwork research in Sierra Leone on the production, use, and global circulation of health data.  She was in Freetown, Sierra Leone, in February 2014 leading a research team studying local and global data use when news of Ebola infections in neighboring Guinea first reached the capital city. A career goal is to contribute ethnographic analyses of bureaucratic, administrative, and financial power exegeses in ways that improve local health sovereignty.

Her current work is on humanitarian and global health data and financing, including the Financialization of Ebola.

More information can be found on

Supervisory Topics

relations of power, and Dr. Erikson’s research explicates how prevailing capitalist rationalities contemporaneously shape health in both wealthy and poor parts of the world. Her own global health scholarship and supervisory approach is informed by her experiences conducting research in Germany and Sierra Leone.

At the Masters and PhD levels, Dr. Erikson works with students committed to deep work in anthropology, and who are intent on applying anthropological theory and methods to their own work. At present, Dr. Erikson's supervisory interests focus on supervising the study of humanitarian and global health arrangements involving African countries. Students are encouraged to contact Dr. Erikson directly about her supervisory availability only if they are interested in using anthropological theory and method to study aspects of politics and power in humanitarian and global health aid, global health futures, data, money, or financialization as subjects of their research projects.

Publications and Activities