Johanna Crane

Associate Professor

B.A. English, Wesleyan University
M.A. Anthropology, San Francisco State University
Ph.D. Medical Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley

On sabbatical 2017-2018
Office: UW2-323
Phone: 425-352-3560
Mailing: Box 358530, 18115 Campus Way NE, Bothell, WA 98011-8246


I am committed to teaching that encourages students to grapple with the ethical and political stakes of science, technology, and medicine in everyday life, both locally and globally. My courses encourage students to go beyond commonly held views of science and medicine as objective technical solutions and instead consider them as fields of power and negotiation in an unequal world. Students leave my classes better able to engage critically and ethically with medicine, science, and technology and to express their thoughts and ideas clearly and constructively. 

My teaching is informed by an ethnographic sensibility, as I believe that narrative and storytelling have the power to pique students’ interest in new topics and stretch their thinking to consider unfamiliar viewpoints.  My approach reflects the fact that, in many ways, I learned more during my first few days of fieldwork in Uganda than I had in my many years of schooling. Some of the things I learned were mundane—such as how to ride a minibus taxi in Kampala, or the proper way to greet a stranger. Other things I learned pointed to a bigger picture, like the way the moped drivers turned their engines off at stop lights and coasted down hills to save gas, and the willingness of pharmacies to sell pills in small numbers—two or three at a time—to those who couldn’t afford a whole month’s supply. Whether it is conducted in a remote community, an urban hospital, or an industrial laboratory, I believe that ethnography has the special ability to link rich, descriptive accounts of everyday life and commonplace practices to broader social, political, and economic phenomena. Making this connection between lived experience and regional, national, and global contexts lies at the core of my approach to both teaching and research.

Recent Courses Taught

BIS 300 Interdisciplinary Inquiry
BIS 380 Bioethics
BIS 384 Health, Medicine, and Society
BISSTS 307 Science, Technology, and Society
BISGST 490 The History and Politics of HIV/AIDS
BIS 499 Portfolio Capstone
BCULST 593 Topics in Cultural Studies (“The Politics of Living and Dying”)


My scholarship sits at the intersections of anthropology, science studies, and bioethics.  My first book, Scrambling for Africa: AIDS, Expertise, and the Rise of American Global Health Science (Cornell University Press, 2013), tracks the skyrocketing popularity of global health science within the American academy and the ‘scramble’ for African research and training sites during the first decade of the new millennium. Through a multi-sited ethnography of a U.S.-Uganda HIV research collaboration, the book argues that the African AIDS epidemic has been not only a source of tragic misfortune and suffering, but also a resource for valuable scientific and institutional opportunities in both the United States and Africa.  The result, I show, is a global health science that paradoxically embodies and even benefits from the very inequalities it also works to redress.  With support from the UW Simpson Center from the Humanities, I am continuing my work on the ethics and politics of global health through an interdisciplinary collaborative research project examining the “Past, Present, and Future of U.S. Global Health Partnerships in Africa.”

In addition, I am in the early stages of a new research project examining ethics and health inequalities within the United States, with a specific focus on health and incarceration.  This work is focused on the relationship between incarceration, physical health, and access to health care, particularly among the elderly and chronically ill within state prison systems.  In the context of national conversations about mass incarceration, aging, and access to care, I aim to understand the everyday ethics of managing and caring for elderly and ailing bodies in a context where basic technologies of accommodation (such as a walker) may be framed as evidence of favoritism, manipulation, or as potential weapons – but where the alternative of ‘compassionate release’ may result in homelessness and/or loss of care. I am also interested in the social and scientific paradox of how prison may simultaneously improve and erode health by providing needed access to care, but in an environment that can induce stress-induced “weathering” and premature aging.

Selected Publications

Crane, Johanna. (2016). “Supervirus: The Framing of a Doomsday Diagnosis.” In Diagnostic Controversy: Cultural Perspectives on Competing Knowledge in Healthcare.  Carolyn Smith-Morris, Ed.  New York: Routledge.

Crane, Johanna and Theresa Rossouw. (2016). “Inequality and Ethics in Pediatric HIV Remission Research: From Mississippi to South Africa and Back.” Global Public Health. doi: 10.1080/17441692.2016.1211162

Crane, Johanna (2013). Scrambling for Africa: AIDS, Expertise, and the Rise of American Global Health Science. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.

Crane, Johanna (2011). “Viral Cartographies: Mapping the Molecular Politics of Global HIV.” BioSocieties, 6(2). doi:10.1057/biosoc.2010.37

Crane, Johanna (2010). “Scrambling for Africa? Universities and Global Health.” Lancet. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)61920-4

Crane, Johanna (2010). “Unequal Partners: AIDS, Academia, and the Rise of Global Health.” Behemoth: A Journal on Civilization, special issue on “Epidemic Orders,” doi:10.1524/behe.2010.0021

Crane, Johanna (2010). “Adverse Events and Placebo Effects: African Scientists, HIV, and Ethics in the ‘Global Health’ Sciences.” Social Studies of Science doi: 10.1177/0306312710371145

Crane, Johanna, A. Kawuma, J.H. Oyugi, J.T. Byakika, A. Moss, P. Bourgois, and D.R. Bangsberg (2006). “The Price of Adherence: Qualitative Findings from HIV-Positive Individuals Purchasing Fixed-Dose Combination Generic HIV Therapy in Kampala, Uganda.” AIDS and Behavior. doi: 10.1007/s10461-006-9080-z