Emilia Sanabria

  • Senior Researcher and PhD Supervisor
  • Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences Program group Anthropology of Health, Care and the Body

Emilia has carried out research in Bahia in northeastern Brazil since 2004, focusing on experiences of the body, sex hormones, menstruation, and blood, as well as people’s relations to pharmaceuticals within the structural opportunities and constraints afforded by private and public healthcare. Her current research builds on her interest in anthropological theories of the body and materiality to examine how the relationships between substances (alimentary, chemical or pharmaceutical) and bodies are conceptualised across a range of contexts. More recently, she undertook research into the politics of food and evidentiary regimes that surround public health nutrition interventions. Through this work (and her engagement with the World Public Health Association) she became interested in the questions of evidence, the social production of ignorance, conflict of interest, agnotology and their relations to public health policy.

She is Assistant Professor in Sociology Anthropology at the Ecole Normale Superieure of Lyon and Senior Research Fellow at the AISSR. She received her Master's (2004) and PhD (2008) from the University of Cambridge and was a post-doctoral fellow at the EHESS in Paris (2008-2010).

She is the PhD supervisor of Swasti Mishra in the Netherlands and Mariana Rios in France.


Emilia's focus within the Chemical Youth project is on the temporal, relational and situated dimensions of forging chemical efficacy. Her work here has centered on the psychedelic science renaissance and on the multiple understandings of efficacy and healing that surround psychedelic substances as they are transmuted into "medicines." She favours theoretical approaches that transcend distinctions between the pharmacological and the social or symbolic, and combine political economy and science and technology studies to analyse how efficacies are crafted, regulated, and come to matter locally, in bodies.


2016. Plastic Bodies: Sex Hormones and Menstrual Suppression in Bahia, Brazil. Duke University Press (Experimental Futures Series). https://www.dukeupress.edu/plastic-bodies/index.html

2016. Circulating Ignorance: Complexity and Agnogenesis in the Obesity “Epidemic.” Cultural Anthropology, 31(1), 131–158. http://doi.org/10.14506/ca31.1.07

2016. (with Brives, C.; & Le Marcis, Frédéric) The Politics and Practices of Evidence in Global Health. Special Issue of Medical Anthropology: Cross-Cultural Studies in Health and Illness.

2015. (with Yates-Doerr, E.) Alimentary uncertainties: From contested evidence to policy. BioSocieties, 10(2), 117–124. http://doi.org/10.1057/biosoc.2015.17

2015. Sensorial pedagogies, hungry fat cells and the limits of nutritional health education. Biosocieties, 10(2), 125–142. http://doi.org/10.1057/biosoc.2015.5

2013. Hormones et reconfiguration des identités sexuelles au Brésil. Clio: Quand la médecine fait le genre, 37, 85–104. https://clio.revues.org/11009

2011. Pourquoi saigner ? Menstruations, dons de sang et équilibre corporel (Salvador de Bahia, Brésil) Terrain : analyses de sang (n°56) : 42-57 http://terrain.revues.org/14162

2011. « The Body Inside Out » in Social Analysis: The International Journal of Social and Cultural Practice 55(1):94-112 http://dx.doi.org/10.3167/sa.2011.550105

2010. « From sub- to super-citizenship: sex hormones and the body politic in Brazil » Ethnos, Journal of Anthropology 75(4) : 377-401 http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00141844.2010.544393

2010. « Le médicament, un objet évanescent : essai sur la fabrication et la consommation des substances pharmaceutiques » Techniques & culture (52-53) : 168-189 https://tc.revues.org/4884

2009. Alleviative Bleeding: Bloodletting, Menstruation and the Politics of Ignorance in a Brazilian Blood Donation Centre. Body & Society, 15(2), 123–144. http://doi.org/10.1177/1357034X09104112