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Emilia Sanabria

Emilia Sanabria

Emilia Sanabria is a French-Colombian anthropologist trained in the United Kingdom (PhD and MPhil in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge, BSc in History and Philosophy of Science from University College London). Emilia was Lecturer in Anthropology at the Ecole normale supérieure de Lyon from 2011-2018 before joining the CNRS in 2018. In 2019 she defended her Habilitation à diriger des recherches titled “Towards an anthropology of encounters: ayahuasca’s multiplicity and the politics of knowledge”.

Emilia’s research is situated at the crossroads of the anthropology of health and the body and Science and Technology Studies (STS). She has been examining the fraught relationship between Western science and biomedicine and indigenous and traditional knowledges through a range of ethnographic projects on sexual and reproductive health, nutrition and food justice and the demarcations between drugs and medicines.

Emilia’s first monograph Plastic Bodies: Sex hormones and menstrual suppression in Brazil was published in 2016 by Duke University Press. Based on an ethnography of the circulation of hormonal contraceptives in Brazil, the book proposes to read the body as eminently plastic. Plastic Bodies received the Michelle Z. Rosaldo and Diana Forsythe prizes from the American Anthropological Association in 2017.

Emilia was Senior Research Fellow at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Sciences Research (AISSR), University van Amsterdam from 2013 -2018. She developed her work on drugs, pharmaceuticals and practices of evidence in global health within the ERC Advanced Grant program "ChemicalYouth: What drugs do for youth in their lives” headed by Anita Hardon.

Since 2017 she has been Principal Investigator of Healing Encounters.

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  • 2016. Plastic Bodies: sex hormones and menstrual suppression in Brazil. Experimental Futures Series. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.


  • 2021. "Vegetative Value: promissory horizons of therapeutic innovation in the global circulation of ayahuasca." BioSocieties (Special Issue: Making Valuable Health)
  • 2020. "(Psychedelics) Beyond the “Neuro”." CulAnth Hot Spots, Fieldsights, July 21.
  • 2020 (with Joseph Dumit) "Fragments on the Demise of the Pharmaceutical." American Ethnologist Anthropological Fantasies After COVID-19
  • 2018. “Endurance and alterability.” Correspondences "Hormones". Cultural Anthropology
  • 2017. (with Anita Hardon) “Fluid Drugs: Revisiting the Anthropology of Pharmaceuticals.” Annual Review of Anthropology 46 pp117-132
  • 2017. (with Piera Talin) “Ayahuasca’s entwined efficacy: An ethnographic study of ritual healing from ‘addiction’.” International Journal Drug Policy 44 pp23-30
  • 2016. (with Charlotte Brives & Frédéric Le Marcis) “What’s in a Context? Tenses and Tensions in Evidence-Based Medicine.” Medical Anthropology: Cross-Cultural Studies in Health and Illness 35(5)
  • 2016. “Circulating Ignorance: Complexity and Agnogenesis in the Obesity ‘Epidemic’.” Cultural Anthropology 31(1):131–158
  • 2016. (with Ilana Lowy) “The biomedicalization of Latin-American bodies.” Manguinhos: História, Ciências, Saúde 23(1):11-18
  • 2015. (with Yates-Doerr, E.) “Alimentary uncertainties: from contested evidence to policy.” BioSocieties, 10(2):117-124
  • 2015. “Sensorial pedagogies, hungry fat cells and the limits of nutritional health education.” BioSocieties, 10(2):125-142
  • 2014. “‘The same thing in a different box:’ similarity and difference in pharmaceutical sex hormone consumption and marketing.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 28(4):537-555
  • 2014. (with Edmonds, A.) “Medical borderlands: engineering the body with plastic surgery and hormonal therapies in Brazil.” Anthropology & Medicine. 21(2):202-216
  • 2013. “Hormones et reconfiguration des identités sexuelles au Brésil.” Clio. Femme, Genre et Histoire: “Quand la médecine fait le genre” (37):85-104
  • 2011. “Pourquoi saigner?” Terrain : analyses de sang n° 56, pp42-57
  • 2011. “The Body Inside Out” in Social Analysis: The International Journal of Social and Cultural Practice 55(1):94-112
  • 2010. “From sub- to super-citizenship: sex hormones and the body politic in Brazil” Ethnos, Journal of Anthropology 75(4):377-401
  • 2009. “Le médicament, un objet évanescent : essai sur la fabrication et la consommation des substances pharmaceutiques” Techniques & culture n°53, pp68-189
  • 2009. “Alleviative bleeding: bloodletting, menstruation and the politics of ignorance in a Brazilian blood donation centre” Body & Society. 15(2):123-144


  • (forthcoming with Joe Dumit). “Set, Setting and Clinical Trials - Colonial Technologies and Psychedelics" in The Palgrave Handbook for the Anthropology of Technology, edited by Maja Hojer Bruun & Klaus Høyer
  • (forthcoming). "Futures" Cambridge Handbook of Anthropology of Gender and Sexuality. in Fotta, M.; McCallum, C.; Posocco, S. eds. University of Cambridge Press
  • 2016. The compounding pharmacy in Brazil. The Routledge Handbook of Medical Anthropology. Edited by Lenore Manderson, Elizabeth Cartwright and Anita Hardon; pp213-217. Abingdon: Routledge