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College of Humanities & Sciences

School of World Studies

Edward M Abse, Ph.D.

Professor Edward Abse [View Image]

Assistant Professor

Fax - 804.827.3479

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



Abse is a cultural anthropologist, with primary interests in the comparative study of religion and the ethnography of indigenous peoples of the Americas. His practical research experience has been in Latin America, including group projects in the Dominican Republic and Colombia as well as individual fieldwork with native Mesoamerican societies in the highlands of southern Mexico, specifically the linguistically and culturally related Mazatecs and Mixtecs living in the state of Oaxaca.

Abse’s current book project, “Where the Sun Hides: Shamanism, the Rise of Sorcery, and Transformations of Mazatec Religious Life” is based on 26 months of field research with the Mazatecs, a Native American people living in the highlands of the Sierra Madre Oriental in southern Mexico. This work is primarily intended as a contribution to the 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 capitalist globalization.

Abse’s developing research program 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 understandings, expectations and priorities might exist between members of the indigenous community and healthcare providers which result in underutilization or avoidance of available medical services. 


Ph.D. Anthropology, University of Virginia, 2007
M.Sc. Social Anthropology, London School of Economics and Political Science, 1985
B.A. Anthropology, University of Virginia, 1984

Select Publications 

Forthcoming Where the Sun Hides: Shamanism, the Rise of Sorcery, and Transformations of Mazatec Religious Life (University of New Mexico Press).

2007 “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. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.

2001 “María Sabina.” Biographical article about Mazatec shaman, in Davíd Carrasco (ed.), The Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures: The Civilizations of Mexico and Central America, New York: Oxford University Press.



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