Heather Howard

  • (also known as Heather Howard-Bobiwash)
  • Assistant Professor
  • Affiliated Faculty, American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program, Native American Institute


Research Interests

  • Medical Anthropology
  • Indigenous Peoples Health
  • Technologies of Chronic Illness Management
  • Community-Driven Methodologies
  • Politics of Knowledge Production in Cultural, Heritage, Health, and Social Service Delivery Organizations

Biographical Info

My research examines the processes through which authoritative forms of knowledge around identity, responsibility and choice are produced; how these structure gendered and racialized inequities; and how these are historicized, contested and reconfigured in cultural, social service, and healthcare delivery organizations. My research is conducted in the U.S. and Canada, and focuses on minority populations, especially Indigenous peoples, where understanding of these processes has significant policy and applied implications, for example increasing autonomy and improving healthcare experience.My current research projects examine chronic illness management in primary care practices, Indigenous community-based healthcare provider organizations, and in a metabolic clinic which combines treatments of diabetes with obesity. My work critically examines the biomedical constructs of chronic disease, which obscure interrogations of the causal links and associations between society, economy, polity and the distribution of outcomes of disease. I focus on the social, historical, and cultural contexts that pattern health and well-being, to reveal the ways in which shifts in the production of clinical knowledge simultaneously reinforce structural power inequalities, while opening avenues for vulnerable and marginal populations to exercise agency. I have also examined the intersection of class, gender, and culture in Indigenous women’s work and activism experience, land and resource rights and use, and community history for Tribal governments in the United States. My research with Indigenous peoples is centered on collaborative models which promote the value of Indigenous knowledge frameworks to scholarship and research which is meaningful to community.I am also a member of the research faculty at the Centre for Aboriginal Initiatives at the University of Toronto. During the spring semester 2016, I was a Visiting Scholar at the University of Oxford, with the Unit for Biocultural Variation and Obesity in the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology; see more here: http://anthropology.msu.edu/2016/05/07/dr-heather-howard-visits-oxford-university/

Current Research Projects

2017: “Nitaawichige: Skilled at Making Things,” Great Lakes Research Alliance for the Study of Aboriginal Arts and Cultures, pilot study funded under a Social Science & Humanities Research Council of Canada Partnership Development Grant (R. Phillips, PI)

2013-2016:”Genomics in the Clinic: Identity, Responsibility and Choice,” co-I (L. M. Hunt, PI Anthropology, MSU) National Institutes of Health

2013-2017: “Our Health Counts Toronto: Developing A Population-Based Urban Aboriginal Cohort to Assess and Enhance Individual, Family and Community Health and Well-being,” co-I (Janet Smylie, (PI) St. Michael’s Hospital Centre for Research on Inner-City Health, Toronto) Canadian Institutes for Health Research

2013-2015: “Memory, Meaning-Making and Collections,” co-PI (with C. Krmpotich and L. Howarth (Faculty of Information, University of Toronto) and Native Canadian Centre of Toronto) Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Partnership Development

2012-2013: “Comparative Effectiveness of Primary Care Practice Transformation by Two Insurers,” co-I (with R. Malouin, Department of Family Medicine, MSU) Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality

2012-2013: “Sharing Transformations in Diabetes,” PI, Canadian Institutes for Health Research

2012-2013: “Understanding Primary Care Transformation in the Niagara Region of Ontario from the Perspective of Practices and Programs,” co-PI (with R. Malouin (Department of Family Medicine, MSU) Canadian Embassy Faculty Research Grant Program

2010-2011: “Transformations in Diabetes Prevention Education and Support Initiatives by and for Aboriginal People in Toronto,” PI, Indigenous Health Research Development Program, Network Environments for Aboriginal Health Research, Canadian Institutes for Health Research

2011: “Aboriginal Diabetes Research Project,” co-PI (with L. Lavallee (Ryerson University) and Anishnawbe Health Toronto) Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care, Toronto Central Local Health Integration Network


2017: Hunt, Linda M., Hannah S. Bell, Allison M. Baker, and Heather A. Howard, “Electronic Health Records (EHRs) and the Disappearing Patient,Medical Anthropology Quarterly. ISSN 0745-5194, online ISSN 1548-1387.  DOI: 10.1111/maq.12375.

2016: Heather A. Howard. “Co-Producing Community and Knowledge: Indigenous Epistemologies of Engaged, Ethical Research in an Urban Context,” Engaged Scholar Journal of Community-Engaged Research, Teaching, and Learning, v.1, no. 3, pp. 205-224. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15402/esj.v2i1.207

2016 “Care Managers and Knowledge Shift in Primary Care Patient-Centered Medical Home Transformation,” with Rebecca Malouin and Martha Callow, Human Organization, v. 75, no. 1 (Winter, 2016).

2015 “From Collection to Community to Collections Again: Urban Indigenous Women, Material Culture and Belonging,” with Cara Krmpotich and Emma Knight, Journal of Material Culture.

2014 “Politics of Culture in Urban Indigenous Community-Based Diabetes Programs,” American Indian Culture and Research Journal, vol.38, no.1.

2014 (online July 26, 2013) “Canadian Residential Schools and Urban Indigenous Knowledge Production about Diabetes Medical Anthropology, Cross Cultural Studies in Health and Illness, Vol. 33, No. 6: 529-545. DOI: 10.1080/01459740.2013.828722.

2012 “Northfork Mono Women’s Agricultural Work and ‘Productive Co-Existence’ In Indigenous Women and WorkTransnational Perspectives, C. Williams (ed). University of Illinois Press.

2011 Urban Aboriginal Research Project Report with Lynn Lavallee, Anishnawbe Health Toronto

2011 Aboriginal Peoples in Canadian Cities: Transformations and Continuities, with Craig Proulx, Wilfrid Laurier University Press.

2009 Keeping the Campfires Going: Native Women’s Activism in Urban Areas, with Susan Applegate Krouse, University of Nebraska Press.

2003 “Women’s Class Strategies as Activism in Native Community Building in Toronto, 1950-1975,” American Indian Quarterly, 27(3-4), 566-582.

1999 Feminist Fields: Ethnographic Insights, with Rae Bridgman and Sally Cole, Broadview Press/UTP Higher Education Press.