Seth Holmes

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Seth Holmes

Associate Professor (Medical Anthropology & Public Health) |Medical Anthropology

Current/Future Courses

Special Interests

Medical anthropology, transnational im/migration, race and racism, gender and queer studies, the naturalization and normalization of social and health inequalities, symbolic violence, subjectivation, Latin America, the United States, and Europe


Seth M. Holmes is a cultural and medical anthropologist and physician whose work focuses broadly on social hierarchies, health inequalities, and the ways in which such asymmetries are naturalized, normalized, and resisted.


     Seth M. Holmes is Associate Professor in the UC Berkeley School of Public Health's Community Health and Human Development Division and the Graduate Program in Medical Anthropology.  He is Co-Director (with Ian Whitmarsh) of the MD/PhD Track in Medical Anthropology coordinated between UCSF and UC Berkeley and Co-Chair (with Charles Briggs) of the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine.  
     Holmes is currently investigating social hierarchies, health, health care and the naturalization and normalization of difference and inequality in the context of transnational US-Mexico im/migration. This project led to the publication of the book, Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United Status (California Series in Public Anthropology, University of California Press, 2013).  An article from this work was awarded the Rudolf Virchow Award from the Society for Medical Anthropology and the book received the New Millennium Book Award from the Society for Medical Anthropology, the Society for the Anthropology of Work Book Award, the Association for Humanist Sociology Book Award, and the James M. Blaut Award from the Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers. In addition, Holmes received the 2014 Margaret Mead Award (the only award given jointly by the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology) for "bringing anthropology to bear on wider social and cultural issues."  In addition to academic articles and the book, Holmes has written about this research for, Access Denied, and The Huffington Post and has been interviewed on multiple NPR, PRI, Pacifica Radio, and Radio Bilingue shows.  
   Concurrently, Holmes is conducting research into the production of the clinical habitus, subjectivity, and gaze, in other words, the processes through which biomedical trainees learn to perceive and respond to social differences and inequalities. In addition, Holmes is engaging in new research into representations of and responses to refugees in Europe; the social, symbolic, and political processes through which Latin@ youth in California navigate ethnicity, multi-layered citizenship, indigeneity, borders, and violence.  Along with other academics, clinicians, activists and artists in the Critical Social Medicine Working Group known as "Rad Med", Holmes is engaged in imagining and experimenting with alternatives to the current systems of health care and racialized policing in the U.S.
     Holmes is affiliated faculty in the Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality and Minor in LGBT Studies (UCB), Designated Emphasis in Critical Theory (UCB), Center for Science, Technology, Medicine and Society (UCB), Center for Race and Gender (UCB), Health Disparities and Diversity Faculty Cluster (UCB), Joint Medical MD/MS Program (UCB/UCSF), Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine (UCSF), Department of Medicine, Highland Hospital, School of Medicine (UCSF), Center for Comparative Immigration Studies (UCSD), and Center of Expertise in Migration and Health (UC System Wide).
Education and Training
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar, Columbia University
Fellow, Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard University
Fellow, Department of Anthropology and Division of Medical Humanities, University of Rochester
Intern and Resident, Department of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania
Ph.D., Medical Anthropology, UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco
M.D., School of Medicine, UC San Francisco
B.S., Ecology and Spanish / Latin American Studies, University of Washington"

Representative Publications

Books and Edited Volumes
Hansen H, Holmes SM, and Lindemann D, eds.  Special Issue: Ethnography of Health for Social Change.  Social Science & Medicine.  2012; Dec; 99.
Holmes SM, Jenks A, and Stonington S, eds.  Anthropologies of Contemporary Clinical Training.  Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry.  2011; 35(2).  
Stonington S, Holmes SM. Social Medicine in the Twenty-First Century. Public Library of Science Medicine. 2006; 3(20):e455.

Selected Journal Articles

Holmes SM, Castaneda H.  The European Refugee Crisis: Difference, Deservingness, Life and Death.  American Ethnologist.2016; 43(1):1-13. 

Holmes SM, Green, J, Stonington S.  Locating Global Health in Social Medicine.  Global Public Health.  2014: 13:9(5):475-80. 

Holmes SM. The Clinical Gaze in the Practice of Migrant Health: Mexican Migrants in the United States. Social Science & Medicine. 2012; 74(6) : 873-881.
Holmes SM.  Is It Worth Risking Your Life?: Ethnography, Risk and Death on the U.S.-Mexico Border.  Social Science & Medicine.  2013; 99: 153-161.
Hansen H, Holmes SM, and Lindemann D, eds. Ethnography of Health for Social Change: Impact on Public Policy and Perception.  Social Science & Medicine.  2013; 99:116-8. 
Martin E, Litchfield G, Parvez F, Lindemann D, Holmes SM, Hansen H.  Enhancing the Public Impact of Ethnography.  Social Science & Medicine.  2013; 99:205-8.
Holmes SM. Structural Vulnerability and Hierarchies of Ethnicity and Citizenship on the Farm. Medical Anthropology. 2011; 30(4):425-49.
Holmes SM. Anthropology and Its Contact Zones. Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers. 2011; 100(1):5-7.
Holmes SM, Jenks AC, Stonington S. Clinical subjectivation: anthropologies of contemporary biomedical training. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry. 2011; 35(2):105-12.
Holmes SM and Ponte M. En-case-ing the Patient: Disciplining Uncertainty in Medical Student Patient Presentations.Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry. 2011; 35(2):163-82.
Holmes SM. Oaxacans Like to Work Bent Over: The Naturalization of Social Suffering Among Berry Farm Workers. International Migration. 2007; 45(3):39-68.
Holmes SM. Parce qu'ils sont plus pres sol: L'invisibilisation de la souffrance sociale des cueilleurs de baies. Actes de Recherche en Sciences Sociales. 2006; 165(2):28-51.
Holmes SM. An Ethnographic Study of the Social Context of Migrant Health in the United States. Public Library of Science Medicine. 2006; 3(10):e448.
Holtz T, Holmes SM, Stonington S, Eisenberg L. Health is Still Social: Contemporary Examples in the Age of the Genome. Public Library of Science Medicine. 2006; 3(10):e419.
Stonington S, Holmes SM. Social Medicine in the Twenty-First Century. Public Library of Science Medicine. 2006; 3(20):e455.