Teaching and Research Profile


Brandon University Courses: 2018-2019

12:153 Introduction to Sociocultural Anthropology (Fall)

12:270 Applied Anthropology (Fall)

12:450 Contemporary Anthropological and Ethnographic Theory (Fall)

12:456 Anthropology of Global Public Health (Winter)

Research Interests

Drawing on data collected over five years of ethnographic fieldwork in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of northern Pakistan, my medical anthropology research explores the impacts of sectarian conflict on global maternal health interventions and women’s use of medical services and hospitals for pregnancy and childbirth. My work provides in-depth and engaged analysis of the cultural, ethical, and experiential texture of medicine, and the political etiologies underlying women’s health outcomes during times of instability and crisis.

My recent and impending publications concern the contribution of socio-economic and political factors to persistently-high rates of maternal illness and death in Gilgit-Baltistan, and the impacts of conflict, social inequality, and health sector decentralization on the region’s Safe Motherhood health services, programming and policy. In so doing, my research highlights the forces associated with poor maternal and neonatal health indicators in the Global South, and reveals the complexity of the social determinants of health during conflict and in zones of weak governance.

Recent Scholarly Presentations

University of Zurich (October 24-26, 2018) Zurich, Switzerland: Presented a research-based paper, “Hospital Paperworlds: Medical (Mis)Reporting and Maternal Health in Northern Pakistan”, as part of book workshop, “The Hospital in South Asia”.

European Conference on South Asian Studies (July 24-27, 2018) Paris, France: Presented a research-based paper, “Medicine’s Nightside: Obstetric Innovation and Iatrogenesis in a State Hospital” as part of a panel session, “Childbirth in South Asia: multiple perspectives on continuing paradoxes”. 

American Anthropological Association (December 3, 2017) Washington, DC: Presented a research-based paper, “The Nightside of Medicine: Ethnographic Witnessing and Proximal Suffering in a Pakistani hospital.” 

Canadian Anthropology Society (May 14, 2016) Halifax, Nova Scotia: Presented opening remarks for roundtable session, “Medical Anthropology, CIHR and SSHRC: Strategizing for Funding Inclusion in Uncertain Times.” 

Nantes Institute for Advanced Study (April 28, 2016) Nantes, France: Presented a research-based paper, “Monsoons and Medicine: Crisis and the Biopolitics of State Indifference in Gilgit-Baltistan”, as part of “Law and Governance in Gilgit-Baltistan Workshop”. 

American Anthropological Association (November 19, 2015) Denver, Colorado: Presented a co-authored, research-based paper, “Spectral Ties: Forms of Haunting Across the Line of Control”, with co-panelist and co-author Dr. Saiba Varma (University of California-San Diego). 

Research and Advocacy Fund. (January 29, 2015) Islamabad, Pakistan: Organized, chaired, and presented at the “Qualitative Research Panel Session” for the Maternal and Newborn Health Programme Research and Advocacy Fund annual conference.

Ludwig Maximilians Universität (October 13, 2014) Munich, Germany: Presented a research-based paper, “Speaking with Angels, Combating Black Magic: Enmity, Spirit Mediums, and Acts of Occult Remediation in Gilgit-Baltistan, Northern Pakistan,” as part of the Institute of Ethnology’s Oberseminar Series. 

Brown University (May 9, 2014) Providence, Rhode Island: Presented a research-based paper, “Abandonments, Solidarities and Logics of Care: Hospitals and Medical Encounters as Sites and Sources of Conflict in Gilgit-Baltistan”, as part of a two-day symposium, “The Clinic in Crisis”.

University of Northern Illinois (November 18-20, 2013) Chicago, Illinois: Presented a research-based paper, “Minding the Public Sector Gap(s) in Northern Pakistan: NGOs’ Complex and Contradictory Contributions to MNCH Services” at academic conference “The Future of NGO Studies”. 

Scholarly Publications

Varma, Saiba and Emma Varley. (2018). “Special Issue: Ghosts in the Ward: Hospital Infrastructures and their Hauntings.” Medical Anthropology. (Saiba Varma and Emma Varley: Co-Organizers and Editors.)

Varley, Emma and Saiba Varma. (2018). “Spectral Ties: Forms of Haunting Across the Line of Control.” Special Issue, Medical Anthropology: https://doi.org/10.1080/01459740.2018.1490280

Varley, Emma. (2017). “Review: ’The Battle for Algeria: Sovereignty, Health Care, and Humanitarianism’ by Jennifer Johnson.” Journal of Third World Studies, 33 (2): 2 pages.

Svea Closser, Rashid Jooma, Emma Varley, Naina Qayyum, Sonia Rodrigues, Akasha Sarwar & Patricia Omidian. (2016). “Polio Eradication and Health Systems in Karachi: Vaccine Refusals in Context.” Global Health Communication, 1 (1): 1-9.

Varley, Emma. (2016). “Abandonments, Solidarities and Logics of Care: Hospitals as Sites of Sectarian Conflict in Gilgit-Baltistan.” (Special Issue “The Clinic in Crisis”; Sherine Hamdy, Soha Bayoumi, Sa’ed Atshan and Adia Benton: Editors) Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, 40 (2): 159-180 (originally published online May 19 2015).

Varley, Emma. (2015). “Exclusionary Infrastructures: Conflict and the Rise of Shia and Sunni Hospitals in Northern Pakistan.” Spaces of Conflict in Everyday Life: Figurations and Methodology. (Martin Sökefeld: Editor) Berlin: Transcript Verlag.

Varley, Emma. (2015). “Review: ‘Education for Development in Northern Pakistan: Opportunities and Constraints for Rural Households.’” Mountain Research and Development, 35 (4): 421-422.

Varley, Emma. (2015). “Review: ‘Women, Islam, and Identity: Public Life in Private Spaces in Uzbekistan’ by Svetlana Peshkova.” Association for Feminist Anthropology: http://www.aaanet.org/sections/afa/book-review/women-islam-and-identity-private-life-in-public-spaces-in-uzbekistan/

Varley, Emma. (2015). “Review: ‘Ritual and Recovery in Post-Conflict Sri Lanka’ by Jane Derges.” Anthropology & Medicine: 1-3.

Varley, Emma. (2014). “Medicine at the Margins: Conflict, Sectarianism and Health Governance in Gilgit-Baltistan.” Special Issue: ‘Studying Violence Anthropologically.’ Allegra: A Virtual Lab of Legal Anthropology, Nov 7 2014: http://allegralaboratory.net/medicine-at-the-margins-conflict-sectarianism-and-health-governance-in-gilgit-baltistan-anthroviolence/

Varley, Emma. (2014). “Islamic Logics, Reproductive Rationalities: Family Planning in Northern Pakistan.” Reproduction and Biopolitics: Ethnographies of Governance, “Irrationality” and Resistance. (Milena Marchesi and Silvia De Zordo: Editors). London: Routledge. Originally published in 2012 in Anthropology & Medicine, 19 (2): 189-206.

Svea Closser, Kelly Cox, Thomas M. Parris, R. Matthew Landis, Judith Justice, Ranjani Gopinath, Kenneth Maes, Hailom Banteyerga Amaha, Ismaila Zango Mohammed, Aminu Mohammed Dukku, Patricia A. Omidian, Emma Varley, Pauley Tedoff, Adam D. Koon, Laetitia Nyirazinyoye, Matthew A. Luck, W. Frank Pont, Vanessa Neergheen, Anat Rosenthal, Peter Nsubuga, Naveen Thacker, Rashid Jooma, and Elizabeth Nuttall. (2014). “The Impact of Polio Eradication on Routine Immunization and Primary Health Care: A Mixed-Methods Study.” The Journal of Infectious Disease, Special Supplement (April 1): S1-S10.

Varley, Emma. (2012). “Islamic Logics, Reproductive Rationalities: Family Planning in Northern Pakistan.” Anthropology & Medicine, 19 (2): 189-206.

Varley, Emma. (2012). “Black Magic, Divination & Remedial Reproductive Agency in Northern Pakistan.” Ethnographies of Islam. (Baudouin Dupret, Thomas Pierret, Paulo Pinto & Kathryn Spellman: Editors) Edinburgh: The Aga Khan University Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilisations & Edinburgh University Press (9 pages).

Varley, Emma, Isaranuwatchai, I., Coyte, P.C. (2012). “Ocean Waves & Roadside Spirits: Thai Health Service Providers’ Post-Tsunami Psychosocial Health.” Disasters: The Journal of Disaster Studies, Policy and Management: 20 pages.

Varley, Emma. (2011). “Fieldnotes Excerpt: Faith & Loss in a Northern Pakistani Labor Room.” Practical Matters: A Transdisciplinary Multimedia Journal of Religious Practices and Practical Theology, 4 (12 pages). http://www.practicalmattersjournal.org/issue/4/practicing-matters/fieldnotes-excerpt

Varley, Emma. (2010). “Targeted doctors, missing patients: Obstetric health services and sectarian conflict in Northern Pakistan.” Social Science & Medicine, 70: 61-70.

Varley, Emma. (2008). “Enmities & Introspection: Fieldwork Entanglements and Ethnographic Reflexivity.” How Do We Know? Evidence, Ethnography, and the Making of Anthropological Knowledge.  (Liana Chua, Casey High, Timm Lau: Editors) Newcastle, UK: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 133-156.

Varley, Emma. (2008). “’Halaat Kharab’/Tension Times: The Maternal Health Costs of Gilgit’s Sunni-Shia Conflict” Missing Links in Sustainable Development: South Asian Perspectives.Karachi: SDPI & SAMA Editorial & Publishing Services, pp. 53-80.


Varley, Emma, McKellin, W.H., Chan, K. (2000). Working in International Health: IHHS 300.(Online Inter-professional Health and Human Service course.) Vancouver: College of Health Disciplines, University of British Columbia.

Consultative Reports

Ghauri, Ali Islam and Emma Varley. (2016). Ethnographic Evaluative Study of the Heartfile Health Financing (HHF) Program. Islamabad, Pakistan: Heartfile (90 pages). 

Bradley, Tamsin, and Smita Premchander, Emma Varley, Seema Khan. (2016). Women, work and violence: Violence against women and girls as an unintended outcome of women’s economic empowerment: understanding gender dynamics within domestic, public and work spaces. London, UK: IMC Worldwide (160 pages).

Coburn, Noah, Emma Varley, Svea Closser, Noor Sabah Rakhshani, Kath O’Reilly and Juliet Bedford. (2015). Pashtun Communities and Polio Vaccination in Pakistan: Anthrologica for Unicef. London, UK: Anthrologica (50 pages). 

Varley, Emma and Seema Khan. (2015). Evidence for Change: Mobilizing Qualitative Research to Improve MNH in Pakistan. Islamabad, Pakistan: Research and Advocacy Fund (36 pages); http://www.rafpakistan.org/userfiles/newfiles/Using%20Qualitative%20Research%20to%20Improve%20MNH%20in%20Pakistan.pdf. 

Brankovic, Branko and Emma Varley. (2012). Assessment Report on Situation of Healthcare System in Gilgit-Baltistan: Needs and Opportunities – June 2012. Islamabad, Pakistan: Maltheser International (28 pages).

Ahmed, Jamil and Emma Varley. (2012). Collective Review of David and Lucille Packard Foundation Grantees for Reproductive Health (RH) Initiatives During and After Floods of 2010-11: Qualitative Research. Islamabad, Pakistan: National Rural Support Programme (NRSP) and Research and Development Department, Health Services Academy (67 pages).

Varley, Emma. (2012). Inception Report: Addressing Family Planning and Reproductive Health (FPRH) in Lahore’s Textile Sector. Lahore, Pakistan: Strategic Enterprise Development Center (LUMS) and the David and Lucille Packard Foundation (24 pages). 

Varley, Emma and Patricia Omidian. (2012). Polio Eradication Impacts Study: Case Study Report, SITE Town Pakistan. Middlebury, VT: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Middlebury College (23 pages).

Varley, Emma. (2008). Memo: Conflictive Sectarianism and Islamic Humanitarianism. University of Toronto and University of Minnesota (51 pages).

Varley, Emma. (1998). AKRSP Women’s Organization (WO) Income-Generating Activities and Increased Household-Decision Making. Gilgit, Pakistan: Monitoring & Evaluation Unit (MER), Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (53 pages).

Online Media

Varley, Emma. (2010). “Difficult Times.” Dawn Newspaper: http://blog.dawn.com/2010/08/10/diary-from-gilgit

Varley, Emma. (2010). “Vulnerable Patients in Gilgit-Baltistan.” Dawn Newspaper: http://blog.dawn.com/2010/08/14/expectancy-and-strife-vulnerable-patients-in-gilgit-baltistan

Varley, Emma. (2010). “Evacuation from Gilgit: Parts I and I.” Dawn Newspaper: http://blog.dawn.com/2010/08/25/evacuation-from-gilgit-i; http://blog.dawn.com/2010/08/27/evacuation-from-gilgit-%E2%80%93-ii

Media Coverage and Press Releases

“BU Prof Publishes Research on Conflict’s Impact on Health Services.” (September 17, 2015) https://www.brandonu.ca/news/2015/09/17/research-conflicts-health-services/

“Keith Martin: Press Room.” (2011) http://www.gokeith.ca/press-room.html

“Pakistan hospital cut off by floods struggles to help survivors.” (August 25, 2010) http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/asiapcf/08/25/pakistan.maternity.hospital/

“Gilgit-Baltistan: Precarious Situation as Basic Necessities Run-Out.” (August 11, 2010) http://unpo.org/article/11493