Edward M Abse, PhD


Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

PhD University of Virginia 2007

Email - emabse@vcu.edu
Phone - 804.827.1143
Fax - 804.827.3479

Office -  Lafayette Hall Room 201
312 N. Shafer Street
Richmond, VA 23220


Edward Abse earned his MSc in Social Anthropology at the University of London, and received his PhD from the University of Virginia. He is a cultural anthropologist, specializing in the anthropology of religion (shamanism; ritual and cosmology; social and religious change), as well as in the cross-cultural study of variant medical systems (e.g., traditional indigenous ethnomedicine vs. modern clinical biomedicine) and their interactions in the context of globalization, with an area focus on the indigenous peoples of the Americas as well as mainstream Latin American societies and cultures.

Dr. Abse’s long-term field research with the Mazatecs, a Native American people living in the highlands of the Sierra Madre Oriental in southern Mexico, is primarily intended as a contribution to the developing theorization of cultural change in the discipline, with regard to issues of the transformation of traditional indigenous cultures in the context of national development and globalization. He is currently preparing a book manuscript entitled Where the Sun Hides: Transformations to Modernity in Mazatec Religious Life.

Also concerned with the empirical foundations of social science theory, his recently published chapter on the socio-psychological dynamics of sorcery, “Don Patricio’s Dream: Shamanism and the Torments of Secrecy in Fieldwork among the Mazatec Indians” (in Jean-Guy Goulet and Bruce Miller (eds.), Extraordinary Anthropology: Transformations in the Field, University of Nebraska Press, 2007) has been well received as a contribution to the more precise understanding of the role of fieldwork experience in the production of ethnographic knowledge. Dr. Abse also contributed a biographical article on the renowned Mazatec shamaness, María Sabina, published in The Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures.

His current research in medical anthropology is multi-sited (binational), and involves the study of how the Mixtecs (another indigenous people of the highlands of southern Mexico) -- both in the sizable immigrant community in Richmond and in their communities of origin -- engage with modern healthcare systems and/or traditional medicine when seeking diagnosis and treatment of illnesses. This comparative study is designed to enable the analysis of dissimilar adverse health conditions associated with rural Mexican vs. U.S. urban environments, as well as cultural continuities and change in beliefs and practices related to disease subsequent to permanent migration and varying degrees of acculturation. The research also involves the exploration of related problems in access to clinical (biomedical) health care, in order to discern whatever incongruent understands, expectations, and priorities might exist between members of the indigenous community and healthcare providers which result in underutilization or avoidance of available medical services. Ultimately, the purpose of this research is twofold, both theoretical and pragmatic, respectively: (1) to contribute to the development of interpretive models in medical anthropology of traditional cultures undergoing transformations in the context of globalization, and (2) to identify issues of miscommunication, incommensurable disease etiologies, and other impediments to the optimum delivery and utilization of institutional health care services for immigrant populations in Richmond, with a view to developing proposals for the effective solution of these problems.

Other experiences in Latin America include participation in University of Pittsburgh/ Universidad de los Andes’ archaeological project on land settlement patterns and regional dynamics of prehispanic chiefdoms in Valle de la Plata, San Agustín, Colombia, and a joint Peace Corps / Western Virginia Community College team survey evaluation of Peace Corps projects throughout the rural areas of the Dominican Republic.

Dr. Abse pursues his broader interests in the history of anthropological theory, culture and cognition, comparative religions, and the indigenous peoples of the Americas, with his students in the courses he teaches in the School of World Studies, including: “Introduction to Anthropology”; “Rethinking a Continent: Latin America”; “South American Ethnography”; “Native Americans of the Southwest”; “Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft”; “Language, Culture, and Cognition”; “Anthropological Theory and Practice”