Crystal Biruk
Associate Professor, Anthropology

Cal Biruk (she/they) 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/trans 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, Cal is working on an ethnographic history of the concept of ‘population’, and the relations, technologies, and ways of knowing it coheres. Drawing on long-term ethnography and analysis of colonial archival sources, the project seeks to excavate 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.

In collaboration with Nicole Dalmer (Health Aging & Society, McMaster), Cal is working on a project that critically examines the datafication of aging and maps Canadian older adults’ dataspheres and data-experiences. In collaboration with Lyndsey Beutin (Communication Studies & Media Arts), Cal is beginning a project that employs media ethnography, visual analysis, and interviews to critically analyze the normative, racialized, and number-centric definitions of 'health' upheld by diabetes care protocols in North America. Cal enjoys travel, running, birding, hiking, and gardening.


Board Member (Liaison Officer), American Ethnological Society

Editorial Board Member, Medical Anthropology Quarterly
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