A middle-aged, white woman with curly hair and glasses takes a selfie on her couch during the COVID-19 pandemic. She is wearing a cream colored wool sweater jacket instead of the sweatshirt she had been wearing for months. Caption: Elizabeth F. S. Roberts

Elizabeth F. S. Roberts

Society for Medical Anthropology

What if we could truly situate our bodily experiences and biological processes in their historical circumstances—so that biological processes could be understood as dynamic, economic, and political? What if critical medical anthropologists and life scientists made rigorous knowledge about health and inequality together that satisfied all involved parties? Elizabeth F. S. Roberts, at the University of Michigan, is working to situate biologies through Mexican Exposures, the name for her ongoing “bioethnographic” collaboration with environmental health researchers in Mexico City’s working-class neighborhoods. Bioethnography brings together two different methodological bundles—ethnographic observation and biochemical sampling—in a synthetic, symmetrical analysis that asks and answers research questions that could not be posed through ethnographic or life science methods alone.