Teaching and Research Profile


Brandon University Courses: 2017-2018

12:153 Introduction to Sociocultural Anthropology (Fall)

12:257 Medical Anthropology (Fall)

12:396 History of Anthropological Theory (Fall)

12/90:259 Sociology of Medical Systems (Winter)

12:351 Anthropology of Development (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 research, for instance, has critically analyzed the maternal health effects incurred by sectarian discrimination, exclusionary health service provision and other forms of structural violence in community and hospital settings. My work also addresses how issues of gender, politics, and faith are expressed through the medium of women’s maternal health behaviours and narratives, and their use of Islamic remedial prayer, spirit divination, and black magic for matters related to reproduction and childbirth. More recently, my research has begun to examine the implications of uneven governance, bureaucratization, and corruption for maternal health and development.

My fieldwork in northern Pakistan requires that I work in diverse settings, including at the household level and in community mosques, pharmaceutical dispensaries and traditional homeopathic apothecaries, rural and urban clinics and hospitals, and governmental, non-governmental, and private sector health and humanitarian organizations.

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 seeks to highlight the forces associated with poor maternal and neonatal health indicators in the Global South, and reveal the complexity of the social determinants of health during conflict and in zones of weak governance.

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


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.


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