Heather Howard

  • (aka Heather Howard-Bobiwash)
  • Associate Professor
  • Affiliated Faculty, American Indian and Indigenous Studies Program


Twitter: @HeatherA_Howard

Research Interests

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

Biographical Info

I study the social relations through which authoritative knowledge – the knowledge that counts – is constructed and applied in healthcare, social service, educational, and cultural organizations, particularly in efforts to address structural inequities.

I carry out my research in varied settings ranging from clinics, to community centers, to schools, and museums. I work primarily with Indigenous peoples for whom my research has significant policy and applied implications, for example increasing autonomy and improving healthcare experience. I am especially interested in the ways responsibility, choice, identity, and healing are shaped in relation to technological innovations, and the meaning people make from collective memory and engagements of the past in the present. My work centers on collaborative, community-based, and participatory approaches to research which promote the value of Indigenous knowledge frameworks to scholarship and research that is meaningful to community.

Several of my research projects study the intersection of gender, culture, and perspectives on human/non-human relations in Indigenous women’s work and activism experience in community history, heritage item making, and education. As a member of the Great Lakes Research Alliance for the Study of Aboriginal Arts and Culture (GRASAC), I am currently examining materialities of Indigenous sovereignty in the meaning-making processes engaged by Indigenous peoples with museum objects of social and cultural significance.

I am also currently writing about bariatric surgery, following on major ethnographic research in an obesity clinic and tracing its recent history of developing into a “cure” for diabetes. I am interested in the consequential transformation this has for patient choice and identity, and the social and ethical significance of a surgical intervention into a condition that is significantly shaped by socio-economic determinants.

I have held an adjunct faculty appointment at the University of Toronto with the Centre for Indigenous Initiatives since 2009, and 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 in 2016 and 2017.

Current Research Projects

2020-2021: Public Engagement Fellowship: “Waganakising Quillwork: A Portal to Share Indigenous Knowledge” The Whiting Foundation. https://www.whiting.org/content/heather-howard

2018-2020: “Widening the Circle: Building a Community Knowledge Sharing Digital Platform with Great Lakes Indigenous Cultural Heritage Research Data” Co-PI, (PI: Heidi Bohaker, University of Toronto/ co-PI Margaret Bruchac, University of Pennsylvania), Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

2017-2018: “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 (H. Bohaker, PI)

2013-2017:”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


2020: Burnett, Diana, Megan Carney, Lauren Carruth, Sarah Chard, Maggie Dickinson, Alysha Galvez, Hannah Garth, Jessica Hardin, Adele Hite, Heather Howard, Lenore Manderson, Abril Saldaña-Tejeda, Dana Simmons, Natalie Valdez, Emily Vasquez, Mega Warin, Emily Yates-Doerr. “Anthropologists Respond to The Lancet EAT Commission.” Bionatura: Latin American Journal of Biotechnology and Life Sciences (Vol. 5, No. 1: 1023-1024), simultaneously published in English and Spanish. http://revistabionatura.com/2020.05.01.2.php

2020 (online 2019): Linda M. Hunt, Hannah S. Bell, Anna C. Martinez-Hume, Funmi Odumosu, and Heather A. Howard. “Corporate Logic in Clinical Care: Is Commodification Driving Medical Practice?” Medical Anthropology Quarterly (Vol. 33, No. 4: 463-482).

2019: Carruth, Lauren, Sarah Chard, Heather A. Howard, Lenore Manderson, Emily Mendenhall, Emily Vasquez, Emily Yates-Doerr. “Disaggregating Diabetes: New Subtypes, Causes, and Care.” Medicine, Anthropology, Theory (Vol 6, No. 4), doi.org/10.17157/mat.6.4.730


2019: Howard, Heather A. “Comunidades y vida urbana de los pueblos indígenas en Canadá” [Indigenous Peoples’ Urban Lives and Communities in Canada] in Indígenas en las ciudades de las Américas: Condiciones de vida, procesos de discriminación e identificación y lucha por la ciudadanía étnica, edited by Jorge E. Horbath and María Amalia Gracia (Miño y Dávila editores, Argentina)

2019: Howard, Heather A., Marsha MacDowell, Judy Pierzynowski, and Laura E. Smith, “Indigenous Makers and the Animation of Digital Narratives,” in Museums and Communities: Diversity, Dialogue and Collaboration in an Age of Migrations, edited by Viv Golding and Jenny Walklate, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, pp. 290-307.

2019. Bell, Hannah S. Funmi Odumosu, Anna C. Martinez-Hume, Heather A. Howard, and Linda M. Hunt, “Racialized Risk in Clinical Care: Clinician Vigilance and Patient ResponsibilityMedical Anthropology: Cross Cultural Studies in Health and Illness, Vol. 38, No. 3, pp. 224-238.

2018 “Settler Colonialism, Biogovernance, and the Logic of a Surgical Cure for Diabetes,” American Anthropologist, Vol. 120, No.4, 817-822.

2018. “`Shut the tape off and I will tell you a story’: Women’s Knowledges in Urban Indigenous Community Representations,” in Katrina Srigley, Stacey Zembrzycki, and Franca Iacovetta, eds., Beyond Women’s Words: Feminisms and the Practices of Oral History in the Twenty-First Century (Routledge).

2018. “Healing Research: Relationalism in Urban Indigenous Health Knowledge Production,” In Indigenous Research: Theories, Practices and Relationships, eds. J.P. Restoule, Rochelle Johnston and Deborah McGregor (Canadian Scholars Press).

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, eds. (Wilfrid Laurier University Press).

2009 Keeping the Campfires Going: Native Women’s Activism in Urban Areas, with Susan Applegate Krouse, eds. (niversity 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, eds. (Broadview Press/UTP Higher Education Press).