Crystal Biruk
Associate Professor, Anthropology

Cal Biruk is Associate Professor of Anthropology. Cal is the author of Cooking Data: Culture and Politics in an African Research World (Duke University Press, 2018). The book draws on ethnographic work in Malawi to trace the social lives of quantitative health data collected by population scientists, and shows how data reflect and cohere new social relations, persons, forms of expertise, and economies. Cal is the author of numerous articles that have appeared in journals such as Medical Anthropology Quarterly, Critical Public Health, Gay and Lesbian Quarterly, Medicine Anthropology Theory, Journal of Modern African Studies, and Critical African Studies. Cal’s research and teaching interests include medical anthropology, critical global health studies, feminist STS, anthropologies of quantification and data, histories of anthropological theory, and queer studies. Cal’s current work with an LGBT-rights organization in Malawi tracks the emergence of ‘key populations’—as knowledge object, target for global health interventions, and site of affective, activist, and monetary investment—in Africa. Taking the global focus on key populations amid the so-called ‘end of AIDS’ in Africa as entry point and drawing on archival sources dating to the early colonial period, Cal is also working on an ethnographic history of the concept of ‘population’, and the relations, technologies, and ways of knowing it coheres. The project excavates the submerged racialized ontologies of global health’s metrics, concepts, sociotechnical infrastructures, and technologies, and considers how they have produced imaginaries and valuations of African health. Finally, another of Cal’s projects blends insights from queer studies and critical data studies to theorize fitness wearables as queer technologies amid the datafication of health and bodies.
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