Faculty Biography

Ellen Foley

Ellen Foley, Ph.D.

Professor of International Development and Social Change
Department of International Development, Community, and Environment
Clark University
950 Main St
Worcester, MA 01610

Phone: 508-421-3815
Email: efoley@clarku.edu


B.A., Kalamazoo College, 1994
M.A., Michigan State University, 1998
Ph.D., Michigan State University, 2002

Research Interests

Neoliberal health reform in West Africa, gender and health disparities, reproductive health, HIV/AIDS, access to health-enabling resources, urban health, youth violence.


Ellen Foley is a medical anthropologist whose research addresses the social production of disease with a focus on how intertwined global, national, and local social forces shape vulnerability to disease, health status, and access to medical care, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Her scholarship examines the processes by which social and economic changes articulate with existing hierarchies of gender, class, and generation to produce conflicts that are largely unseen and misunderstood by dominant development and health discourses. She focuses on the lived experience of illness and suffering as well as the intimate household politics of gender inequality and managing health and sickness in resource-constrained environments.

Foley recently published her first book, Your Pocket is What Cures You: The Politics of Health in Senegal (Rutgers University Press, 2010). The book examines how neoliberal economic policies and market-based health reforms have taken shape in sub-Saharan Africa over the past decades, focusing on the tensions and conflicts these global trends have produced in Senegal. Against this backdrop of changing government health systems she analyzes how rapid urbanization and rural agricultural decline affect men and women's health practices and the household management of health and sickness. This research critiques neoliberal health policy and offers rich ethnographic insights into how people actually cope with risk and vulnerability in the context of material insecurity.

Foley is currently involved in several ongoing projects. In 2009 she launched "Sex in the City: Gender Relations amidst Social Crisis in Urban Senegal" with support of a Fulbright fellowship through the Africa Regional Research program. This project is a study of changing trends in marriage, gender relations, and sexual patterns in urban Senegal. In addition to collecting multi-generation life histories to track how how women of different generations experience shifting cultural constructions of heterosexuality in Senegal, this research also examines how these development actors have deployed knowledge of sex work, gender, and transactional sex in their programs and interventions.

Since 2006 Professor Foley has collaborated with IDCE colleague Professor Laurie Ross on Worcester's Charles E. Shannon Community Safety Initiative, a state-wide initiative designed to reduce youth and gang violence in cities across Massachusetts. As the Local Action Research Partner (LARP), they have made substantial contributions to Worcester's Shannon program by strengthening communication and coordination among the initiative partners, providing ongoing feedback to partners, and increasing the capacity of the program to deploy creative strategies to improve the quality of life of vulnerable youth.

In 2011 Professor Foley began leading a group of Clark University faculty, students, and Marsh Institute staff seeking to forge a collaborative research initiative with the oldest AIDS service organization in New England, AIDS Project Worcester (APW). This project aims is to combine our complementary strengths - providing effective AIDS services and conducting innovative research - to address the health disparities that facilitate the transmission of HIV/AIDS in central Massachusetts. The Clark-APW team is generating a research portfolio that will examine the social drivers behind Worcester's AIDS epidemic and assess the efficacy of current public health strategies for Worcester's highly at-risk populations.

Selected Publications

Niang, Cheikh I.,  Ellen E. Foley and Ndack Diop. 2020.  “Colonial Legacies, Electoral Politics, and the Production of (Anti) Homosexuality in Senegal” In Emily Burrill and Lydia Boyd (Eds).  Legislating Sexuality in Africa: Human Rights, Society, and the State, University of Wisconsin Press, pp. 150-170.

Mokhtar, Hasnaa and Ellen E. Foley. 2020.  “Advisor–advisee feminist relational mentoring: A heartfelt autoethnographic conversation.” Feminist Anthropology, https://doi.org/10.1002/fea2.12003.

Foley, Ellen E. and Cheikh I. Niang.  2019.  “Radical Inclusion and the Life of a Public Intellectual: A Conversation with Cheikh Ibrahima Niang.”  In Babacar M’Baye and Besi Muhonja. (Eds). Gender and Sexuality in Senegalese Societies, Lexington Books, pp. 257-291.

Bhatia, Rajani, Sasser, Jade S., Ojeda, Diana, Hendrixson, Anne, Nadimpally, Sarojini, and Ellen E. Foley. 2019. “A Feminist Exploration of ‘Populationism’: Engaging Contemporary Forms of Population Control.” Gender, Place and Culture, https://doi.org/10.1080/0966369X.2018.1553859.

Bendix, Daniel, Foley, Ellen E., Hendrixson, Anne, and Susanne Schultz. 2019.  “Targets and Technologies: Sayana Press and Jadelle in Contemporary Population Policies.” Gender, Place and Culture, https://doi.org/10.1080/0966369X.2018.1555145

Vialard, Lucie, Squiban, Clara, Riveau, Gilles, Hermann, Emmanuel, Diop, Doudou, Fournet, Florence, Salem, Gerard, and Ellen. E Foley. 2017. “Toward a socio-territorial approach to health: Health equity in West Africa.”  International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14 (106): 1-23.

Foley, Ellen E. 2016. “Regulating sex work: Subjectivity and stigma in Senegal.” Culture, Health, and Sexuality, 19 (1): 50-63. 

Foley, Ellen E. and Fatou Maria Drame. 2015. “HIV/AIDS in mid-sized cities in Senegal: From individual to place-based vulnerability.” Social Science and Medicine, 133C: 296-303.

Foley, Ellen E. and Fatou Maria Drame.  2013. “Mbaraan and the shifting political economy of sex in urban Senegal.”  Culture, Health, and Sexuality. 15(2):121-34.

Foley, Ellen E. and Anne Hendrixson. 2011. "From population control to AIDS: conceptualizing and critiquing the global crisis model." Global Public Health. 6 Suppl 3:S310-22.

Foley, Ellen E. and Cheikh Anta Babou. 2011. "Diaspora, faith, and science: building a Mouride hospital in Senegal." African Affairs, 110 (438): 75-95.

Foley, Ellen E. 2010. Your Pocket is What Cures You: The Politics of Health in Senegal. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.

Foley, Ellen E. and Rokhaya Nguer. 2010. "Courting success in HIV/AIDS prevention: the paradoxes of a concentrated epidemic in Senegal." African Journal of AIDS Research, 9 (4): 325-336.

Foley, Ellen E. 2009. "The anti-politics of health reform: household power relations and child health in rural Senegal." Anthropology and Medicine, 16 (1): 61-71.

Foley, Ellen E. 2008. "Neoliberal reform and health dilemmas: illness, social hierarchy, and therapeutic decision-making in Senegal" Medical Anthropology Quarterly, 22(3): 257-273.

Foley, Ellen E. 2007. "Overlaps and disconnects in reproductive health care: global policies, national programs, and the micropolitics of fertility and contraceptive use in Northern Senegal." Medical Anthropology, 26(4): 323-354.

Foley, Ellen E. 2005. "HIV/AIDS and African immigrant women in Philadelphia: structural and cultural barriers to care." AIDS Care, 17(8): 1030-1043.


Community Development and Planning
Culture, Health, and Power: Introduction to Medical Anthropology.
Gender and Health

Global Environmental Studies
Local Action/Global Change: The Urban Context

International Development and Social Change
Health and Disease in Developing World
Culture, Health, and Power: Introduction to Medical Anthropology.
Gender and Health
Gender and Health

Peace Studies
Local Action/Global Change: The Urban Context

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