Claire Wendland

Position title: Professor and Chair of Department


Phone: 608-262-3874

5436 Sewell Social Science Bldg.

Claire Wendland. Photo credit: Jeff Miller/UW-Madison

Joined UW-Madison faculty in 2005
Also Appointed in: Obstetrics & Gynecology


Claire Wendland CV

Areas of Focus

Cultural anthropology, medical anthropology, Africa, Malawi, maternal health, biomedicine, hospital ethnography


African Studies Program; Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies; Global Health Institute; Global Studies


As a medical anthropologist, I focus on healing expertise and the globalization of biomedicine, particularly in southern Africa. My first major project explored the experiences of medical students learning to be doctors in Malawi. The resulting book was the first ethnography of a medical school in the Global South, and it challenged customary wisdom that took medical training to be inherently reductionist and depoliticizing.  A second long-term research project examined changing explanations for maternal death and danger in southeast Africa, in a setting in which very high maternal mortality rates forced professionals and lay people alike to develop explanations for the link between birth and death. In addition to field research in Malawi, I have also worked on critical studies of metrics, on global health, and on various projects related to medical education.


2022 Partial Stories: Maternal Death from Six Angles. The University of Chicago Press.

2010 A Heart for the Work: Journeys through an African Medical School. The University of Chicago Press.

Selected Other Recent Publications

2022 Wendland, Claire. Afterword: testing, training, changing. In The Work of Hospitals: Global Medicine in Local Cultures, editors William Olsen and Carolyn Sargent, pp. 226-232. Rutgers University Press

2020 Mkandawire-Valhmu, Lucy, Nancy Kendall, Anne Dressel, Claire Wendland et al. Women’s work at end of life: The intersecting gendered vulnerabilities of patients and caregivers in rural Malawi. Global Public Health 15(7):1062-1072

2019 Wendland, Claire. Physician anthropologists. Annual Review of Anthropology 48: 187-205

2018 Wendland, Claire. Who counts? What counts? Place and the limits of perinatal mortality measures. American Medical Association Journal of Ethics 20(3):278-287.

2017 Wendland, Claire. Legitimate care, dangerous care, and childbirth in an urban African community. In African Medical Pluralism, editors Carolyn Sargent and William Olsen, pp. 244-260. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

2017 Wendland, Claire. Opening up the black box: Looking for a more capacious version of capacity in global health partnerships. Canadian Journal of African Studies 50(3):415-435.

2016 Peters, Rebecca Warne and Claire Wendland. “Up the Africanist”: the possibilities and problems of ‘studying up’ in Africa. Critical African Studies 8(3):239-254 DOI 10.1080/21681392.2016.1244945

2016 Wendland, Claire. Estimating death: a close reading of maternal mortality metrics in Malawi. In Metrics: What Counts in Global Health, editor Vincanne Adams, pp. 57-81. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.


I teach an introductory course in medical anthropology, a graduate seminar in anthropology and international health, and various courses in the anthropology of Africa and in general cultural anthropology. I also have an interest in ethics and have taught both anthropological ethics and bioethics courses.