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Ian Harper

Ian Harper
Professor Ian Harper
Professor of Anthropology of Health and Development
5.03 Chrystal Macmillan Building 15a George Square Edinburgh UK EH8 9LD
+44 (0)131 650 3816
Research Interests
International development, South Asia, Medical Anthropology, Global Health Policy

Guidance and Feedback Hours

  • Semester 2, Tuesday 10:00 - 12:00

coverBiographical Statement

Ian Harper is a trained medical practitioner who has worked in hospital medicine and general practice in the UK. For three and a half years he managed a tuberculosis control project in Nepal, and for two years worked with NGOs throughout India in supporting community health programmes. His experiences of practicing medicine and public health in such diverse cultural and political situations led him to study medical anthropology. 

He served on the ASA committee as the ethics officer (2005-7) and is a co-founder of Anthropology Matters, the ASA's national web-based postgraduate network. He was secretary of the Britain Nepal Academic Council till 2014 and was an associate editor of the International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease. He was chair of the organising committee of the 2014 ASA Decennial Conference run jointly with the Social Anthropology departments of the University of Aberdeen and University of St Andrews, under the STAR consortium

From August 1998 to March 2000 he researched into the social relations around, and the effects of, a series of public health programmes in Palpa district, Nepal. Briefly researching into the privatisation of technical training in the health sector in Nepal, between 2007-9 he researched as part of a multidisciplinary team on a DfID / ESRC funded research project "tracing pharmaceuticals in South Asia". Between August and December 2008, at the invitation of the Director, he worked in the Nepal National Tuberculosis Programme (NTP) assisting with the implementation of Global Fund funded programmes. More recently, he was a CI on a grant from Phase 2 of the ESRC/DfID Joint Programme of Research on international development issues, entitled "Biomedical and Health Experimentation in South Asia: Critical Perspectives on Collaboration, Governance and Competition"; a CI on the ESRC funded seminar series, "Evidence in interdisciplinary contexts"; and PI on a grant from Phase 3 of the ESRC / DfID Joint Programme for the project "New Norms and Forms of Development: Brokerage in Maternal and Child Health Service Development and Delivery in Nepal and Malawi". In 2012 he received a Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Grant for the project: Understanding TB Control: Technologies, Ethics and Programmes

He was the founding Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Medical Anthropology.

Selected Publications


2014 (Paperback, 2017). Development and Public Health in the Himalaya: Reflections on healing in Contemporary Nepal. Routledge.


Edited Collections:

2019. Understanding Tuberculosis and its Control: Anthropological and Ethnographic Approaches. Routledge. (WIth Helen MacDonald). 

2015. The Clinic and the Court. Cambridge University Press. (with Toby Kelly and Akshay Khanna).photo

2014. The Politics and Anti-Politics of Infectious Disease Control. Medical Anthropology. 33: 198 - 205. (With Melissa Parker)

2008. Diaspora and Disease. International Migration (with Paru Raman). (Introduction:  Harper, I and P Raman 2008. "Less than Human? Diaspora, Disease and the Question of Citizenship". International Migration Vol. 46 (5): 3-26)

2006. The Anthropology of Public Health. Journal of Biosocial Science (with Melissa Parker). (Introduction: Parker, M and I Harper 2006. The Anthropology of Public Health. J. Biosoc. Sci. (2006), 38, 1-5)

Peer reviewed journal articles:

Sharma J, R Khatri & I Harper (2018).  Accountability and generating evidence for global health interventions: The case of misoprostol in NepalIDS Bulletin. 

Sharma J & I Harper (2017). Britain-Nepal relations through the prism of aidEuropean Bulletin of Himalayan Research. 

Sharma J, R Khatri & I Harper (2016). Understanding Health Research Ethics in NepalDeveloping World Bio-ethics, (Special Issue: the Ethics of Health Systems Research in Low and Middle-income Countries)

Brhlikova P, I Harper, M Subedi, S Bhattarai, N Rawal & A Pollock. 2015. Aid conditionalities, International Good Manufacturing Practice standards, and local production rights: a case study of local production in NepalGlobalisation and Health (2015) 11:25

Taylor EM & I Harper, 2013. The Politics and Anti-Politics of the Global Fund Experiment: Understanding Partnership and Bureaucratic Expansion in Uganda. Medical Anthropology. doi: 10.1080/01459740.2013.796941 

Harper I, E Mitchell & S Theobald, 2012. Editorial: Improving Qualitative Research in the Journal International Journal of Tuberculosis and Lung Disease. 16 (1): 2-3 

Harper I, N Rawal & M Subedi, 2011. "Disputing distribution: Ethics and pharmaceutical regulation in NepalStudies in Nepali History and Society.

Brhlikova P, I Harper, R Jeffery, N Rawal, M Subedi & Santhosh M.R 2011. “Trust and the Regulation of Pharmaceuticals: South Asia in a Globalised World”. Globalisation and Health. 2011, 7:10 (29 April 2011)

Harper, I 2010. “Extreme condition, extreme measures? Compliance, drug resistance and the control of tuberculosis”. Anthropology & Medicine, 17 (2) 201-214.

Kohrt, B & I Harper, I 2008. "Navigating diagnoses: Understanding mind-body relations, stigma and mental health in Nepal" Cult Med Psychiatry 32:462-491.

Harper, I 2007. "Translating ethics: Researching public health and medical practices in Nepal" Social Science & Medicine 65 (2007) 2235-2247.

Harper, I 2006. “Anthroplogy, DOTS and Understanding tuberculosis control in Nepal”. J. Biosoc. Sci. (2006) 38, 57-67.

Harper, I and A Corsin Jiminez 2005. “Towards an interactive professional ethics”. Anthropology Today, Vol. 21, No. 6, pp. 10-12

Harper, I 2002 "Capsular promise as public health: A critique of the Nepal National Vitamin A Programme". Studies in Nepali History and Society 7(1): 137-173

Book Chapters:

Harper I & R Khatri, 2019. Diagnosing Tuberculosis: A Case Study from Nepal. In H MacDonald & I Harper (eds) Understanding Tuberculosis and its Control: Anthroplogical and Ethnographic Approaches. Routledge. 

Harper I and R Jeffery, 2019. The Skull Room: Craniological past of Edinburgh and India. In R Jeffery (ed) India in Edinburgh. Social Science Press. 

Harper I and N Rawal, 2015. Living and dieing with mycobacteria: Tuberculosis and the regulation of anti-tuberculous drugs in Nepal. In Han C and V Das (eds) An Anthropology of Living and Dieing in the Contemprary World: A Compendium. University of California Press.

Harper, I 2015. Courts and the control of TB: Quarantine, travel and the question of adherence, in I Harper, T Kelly and A. Khanna (eds) The Clinic and the Court. Cambridge University Press.

Harper, I 2013 "Ethics" in N Konopinski  (ed) Doing Anthropological Research: A Practical Guide. Routledge. 

Ecks, S and I Harper, 2013 "There is no regulation, actually": The Private market for Anti-TB Drugs in India. In J, Biehl & A. Petreyna (Eds) When People Come First: Anthropology, Actuality and Theory in Global Health. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Harper, I 2011. "World Health and Nepal: Producing Internationals, Healthy Citizenship and the Cosmopolitan". In David Mosse (ed) Adventures in Aidland: The Anthropology of Professionals in International Development. Berghahn.

Harper, I 2009. "Mediating Therapeutic Uncertainty: A Mission Hospital in Nepal" In Harrison M, M Jones & H Sweet (eds) From Western Medicine to Global Medicine: The Hospital Beyond the West. Orient Longman, Delhi. 

Harper, I 2008. "Confidentiality in Non-western countries". In Clark C & J McGee (eds) Private and Confidential? Handling Personal Information in Social and Health Services. The Polity Press.

Harper, I and B Maddox 2008. "The impossibility of wellbeing: Development language and the pathologisation of Nepal" In Alberto Corsin Jimenez (ed) Culture and Well-being: Anthropological Approaches to Freedom and Political Ethics. London: Pluto Press.

Other publications include:  

Harper I. 2019.  A History of Global Health: Interventions into the Lives of Other Peoples. Packard, Randall M., Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2016, 432 pp.. Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 33

Sharma JIHarperR AdhikariP SmithD ThapaO B ChandA Malata. 2017. Comment — WHO outsourcing dilemma: for whose benefit, at whose expense? BMJ Global Health.  DOI: 10.1136/bmjgh-2016-000237

Harper, I & A Street. 2015. Ian Harper's Development and Public Health in the Himalaya. Somatosphere. 

Street A, E M Taylor, J Smith & I Harper. 2014. Diagnostics for development. Somatosphere

Ellen M. H. Mitchell, Ian Harper & Sally Theobald, Associate Editors, IJTLD. 2012. Guidelines for preparing manuscripts on qualitative research in the IJTLD.  

Hayman R, Taylor EM, Crawford F, Jeffery P, Smith J, Harper I (2011) The impact of aid on maternal and reproductive health: A systematic review to evaluate the effect of aid on the outcomes of Millennium Development Goal 5. London: EPPI-Centre, Social Science Research Unit, Institute of Education, University of London.

J. Pettigrew. J., S Shneiderman and I Harper 2004. "Relationships, Complicity and Representation: Conducting Research in Nepal during the Maoist Insurgency". Anthropology Today. Vol 20, No. 1, pp.20-26.

Recent workshops organised: 

7th Britain-Nepal Academic Council Nepal Study Day, 30th March, 2009

THE POLITICS AND ANTI-POLITICS OF INFECTIOUS DISEASE CONTROL, June 23rd – June 24th 2010. A workshop jointly organised by the Centre for Research in International Medical Anthropology, Brunel University and the School of Social and Political Science, University of Edinburgh

THE CLINIC AND THE COURT: Understanding Harm and Remedy, May 26th - May 27th 2011.  School of Social and Political Studies, University of Edinburgh. 

Infectious Disease and Wealth: Exploring the Links between Tuberculosis and the Political Economy. June 2014. Panel co-organised at the ASA Decennial Conference, Edinburgh. 

Art and Medical Anthropology, April 2015. Panel co-organised for the ASA Conference, Exeter.

Evidence and Organisations in Development, October 2016. Conference co-organised for Spaces of Evidence, Edinburgh

Reproductive Futures in Maternal and Child Health, July 2016. Panel co-organised for the ASA conference, Durham. 

Qualitative Research for Tuberculosis Control: What Lessons can Researchers offer to Policymakers and Implementers in tackling drug-resistant TB? Symposium organised for the World Lung Health Conference, Liverpool. October 2016.

Understanding health workers at the interface of community and development. Panel coorganised for the Oxford ASA 18 conference: Sociality, matter, and the imagination: re-creating Anthropology, October 2018. 


Topics interested in supervising

Interested in supervising students in areas related to:
anthropology and (public) health, those working on Nepal, and particularly with students who wish to develop interdisciplinary research experience.

If you are interested in being supervised by Ian Harper, please see the links below for more information:

PhD in Social Anthropology; MSc (R) Sociology and Anthropology of Health and Illness