Carole Browner

Carole Browner

Carole Browner

Distinguished Research Professor


Anthropology, Gender Studies


Phone: 310-825-4119

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I am a Professor in the Department of Anthropology, the Department of Women’s Studies, and in the Center for Culture and Health, which is based in the David Geffen School of Medicine’s NPI-Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior. I became Chair of the Anthropology Department in July 2010. My training as a medical anthropologist combines a doctorate in socio-cultural anthropology with a Master’s degree in public health.

Throughout most of my career, my research interests have lay principally at the intersection of gender, reproduction, and health. I have done field research in urban Colombia, rural Mexico, and with diverse ethnic groups in the U. S. In Cali, Colombia I investigated the circumstances that led pregnant women with unintended conceptions to seek illegal abortion. In rural Mexico, I sought to understand how local political relations shape gender-based reproductive strategies. Since 1989, I have worked mainly in the U. S. on issues surrounding the medicalization of pregnancy and prenatal care, particularly the ways that prenatal genetic information may alter reproductive experience.  Broadly based on these interests, my collection, Reproduction, Globalization and the State: New Theoretical and Ethnographic Perspectives (co-edited with Carolyn Sargent) was published in 2011 by Duke University Press.

Building upon and expanding my longstanding research into the social impact of decoding the human genome, and meanings and uses of genetic information, my current work focuses on the growing role of genetic testing in the field of neurology.  My monograph, Neurogenetic Diagnoses, the Power of Hope, and the Limits of Today’s Medicine, co-authored with Mabel Preloran (2010, Routledge), explores the diverse meanings and impacts of genetic diagnoses for patients enduring currently incurable, ultimately fatal neurodegenerative diseases — and for their family caregivers and clinicians.  The analysis is framed by increasingly sharp social debates over the consequences of decoding the human genome — and the impact of genetic technology on our lives.  Currently, with a team of neurogenetics experts and health services researchers, I am continuing this work with an investigation of when and why community-based neurologists order genetic testing and refer patients for neurogenetic specialty consultations.

Some of my other work has concerned how couples from Mexican backgrounds who are offered amniocentesis decide whether to undergo the procedure, how conflicts between a woman and man over whether to be tested are resolved, and the role genetic counselors play in couples’ amniocentesis decisions.  A follow-up study enabled me to deconstruct the strategies prenatal genetic service providers use to communicate information about prenatal genetic testing options to Latinas with limited education and/or English living in south Texas and southern California.  Other projects have examined how Latino couples make decisions about condom use; the meanings associated with cervical cancer held by women and men living on both sides of the U.S.-Mexican border; and the use of reproductive health services by homeless women in Los Angeles.

Other current projects include a collaboration with professors from the UCLA Dental School to study motivations for volunteering on a medical mission to treat Mexican children born with cleft lip and palate; a project sponsored by the UCLA Departments of Medicine and Rheumatology on the real life contexts of lupus-associated “flares” among women of diverse ethnic and social class backgrounds living in Los Angeles; and the longitudinal processes that have contributed to rural Bali’s dramatic fertility decline.

My work has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Agency for Health Care Policy Research, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, private donors and private foundations.

I teach graduate seminars in Medical Anthropology; The Anthropology of the Human Body; The Politics of Reproduction; and Anthropological Perspectives on Genetics, Genetic Testing, and Genetic Knowledge, as well as courses in research design and methods to graduate and undergraduate students.

My professional service has included membership on the Scientific Advisory Committee for the State of California’s Birth Defects Monitoring Program and on the Executive and Advisory Boards of several University of California institutes including UC-MEXUS, the Institute for American Cultures, the Institute for Development Studies, the International Institute, the Latin American Center, and the Center for the Study of Women.

Nationally, I have been elected to the Executive Boards of the American Anthropological Association, the Society for Applied Anthropology, the Society for Latin American Anthropology, and the Society for Medical Anthropology; I was President of the latter from 1995-97. I’ve also served on the several journal editorial boards.

I consult on a wide variety of research projects on women’s and Latino health in southern California, on the U.S.-Mexican border, in Mexico and elsewhere in Latin America.


Ph.D., University of California Berkeley, 1976
M.P.H., University of California Berkeley, 1977

Research Interests

Gender, reproduction, healthocial impact of decoding the human genome, reproductive politics; Latin America, urban U.S. Subfield: Medical Anthropology

Selected Publications

Browner, C.H. 1979 Abortion Decision Making: Some Findings from Colombia. Studies in Family Planning 10 (3): 96-106. Translated and reprinted in Estudios de Población IV (1-6): 16-29, 1979.

Browner, C. H. 1980 The Management of Early Pregnancy: Colombian Folk Concepts of Fertility Control. Social Science and Medicine 14B:25-32.

Browner, C. H. and Lewin, E. 1982 Female Altruism Reconsidered: The Virgin Mary as Economic Woman. American Ethnologist 9(1):61-75.

Browner, C. H. 1983 Male Pregnancy Symptoms in Urban Colombia. American Ethnologist 10(3):494-510.

Browner, C.H. 1986 Gender Roles and Social Change: A Mexican Case Study. Ethnology 25(2): 89-106.

Browner, C.H. 1986 The Politics of Reproduction in a Mexican Village. Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 11(4): 710 -24.

Browner, C.H. 1989 Women, Household and Health in Latin America. Social Science and Medicine 28 (5): 461-73.

Browner, C. H. and Press, N. A. 1995 “The Normalization of Prenatal Diagnostic Screening.” In, F. Ginsburg and R. Rapp, eds. Conceiving the New World Order, pp. 307-322. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Browner, C. H. and Press, N. A. 1996 The Production of Authoritative Knowledge in American Prenatal Care. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 10(2): 141-156.

Browner, C. H., Preloran, H. M. 1999 The Effect of Male Partners on Latinas’ Amniocentesis Decisions. Journal of Genetic Counseling 8(2):85-109.

Browner, C. H. 1999. On the Medicalization of Medical Anthropology. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 13(2):135-40.

Browner, C. H., Preloran, H. M., and Cox, S. J. 1999 Ethnicity, Bioethics, and Prenatal Diagnosis: the Amniocentesis Decisions of Mexican-origin Women and their Partners. American Journal of Public Health 89(11):1658-66.

Browner, C. H. and Preloran, H. M. 2000 Latinas, Amniocentesis and the Discourse of Choice. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, 24(3): 353-75.

Browner, C. H. and Preloran, H. M. 2000 Interpreting Low-Income Latinas’ Amniocentesis Refusals. Hispanic Journal of Behavioral Sciences, 22(3): 346-68.

Browner, C. H. 2000 Situating Women’s Reproductive Activities. American Anthropologist, 102(4): 773-88.

Root, R. and Browner, C. H. 2001. Practices of the Pregnant Self: Compliance with and Resistance to Biomedical Prenatal Norms. Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, 25(2):195-223.

Preloran, H. M, Browner, C. H., & Lieber, E. 2001 Strategies for Motivating Latino Couples’ Participation in Qualitative Health Research. American Journal of Public Health, 91(11): 1832-41.

Browner, C. H. Preloran, H. M., Casado, M. C., Bass, H. and Walker, A. 2003. Genetic Counseling Gone Awry: Some Consequences of Miscommunication between Prenatal Genetic Service Providers and Latina Clients. Social Science and Medicine, 56(9):1933-1946.

Markens, S., Browner, C.H., and Preloran, H.M. 2003. “I’m Not the One They’re Sticking the Needle Into”: Latino Couples, Fetal Diagnosis, and the Discourse of Reproductive Rights. Gender & Society, 17(3):462-481.

Browner, C. H. and Preloran, H.M. 2004. Expectations, Emotions, and Medical Decision Making: A Case Study on the Use of Amniocentesis. Transcultural Psychiatry 41(4): 427-444.

Browner, C. H. and Levin, B. W., eds. 2005. The Social Production of Health: Critical Contributions from Evolutionary, Biological, and Cultural Anthropology. Papers in Memory of Arthur J. Rubel. Invited theme issue for Social Science and Medicine 61(4): 745-878.

Levin, B. W. and Browner, C. H. 2005. The Social Production of Health: Critical Contributions from Evolutionary, Biological, and Cultural Anthropology. Social Science and Medicine 61(4):745-50.

Preloran, H. M., Browner, C. H., and Lieber, E. 2005. Impact of Interpreters’ Approach on Latinas’ Use of Amniocentesis. Health Education & Behavior 32(5):599-612.

Browner, C. H. and Preloran, H. M. 2006. “Culture and Communication in the Realm of Fetal Diagnosis. Unique Considerations for Latino Patients.” In, Neil F. Sharpe and Ronald F. Carter, eds. Genetic Testing: Current Practices, Ethical Concerns, Legal Considerations, pp. 31-44. NY: John Wiley & Sons.

Browner, C. H. and Preloran, H. M. 2006. “Entering the Field: Recruiting Latinos for Ethnographic Work.” In, Dick Hobbs and Richard Wright, ed. Handbook of Fieldwork, pp. 93-106. London: Sage.

Browner, C. H. and Sargent, C. F. 2007. “Engendering Medical Anthropology.” In, Serge Genest and Francine Saillant, eds. Medical Anthropology: Regional Perspectives and Shared Concerns, pp. 233-51. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing. Ltd.

Browner, C. H. 2007. Can ‘Gender Equity’ in Reproductive Programs and Policies Unintentionally Reinforce Male Authority?” In, Marcia Inhorn, ed. Reproductive Disruptions, Childlessness, Adoption, and Other Reproductive Complexities, pp. 145-164. Oxford: Berghahn.

Hess, P., Preloran, H. P., and Browner, C. H. 2009 Diagnostic Genetic Testing for a Fatal Illness: The Experience of Patients with Movement Disorders. New Genetics and Society 28(1): 3-18.

Markens, S., Browner, C. H. and Preloran, H. M. 2010. Interrogating the Dynamics between Power, Knowledge and Pregnant Bodies in Amniocentesis Decision-Making. Sociology of Health and Illness, in press, 32(1):37-56.

Browner, C. H. and Preloran H. M. 2010. Neurogenetic Diagnoses, the Power of Hope, and the Limits of Today’s Medicine, London: Routledge.

Browner, C. H. and Sargent, C. F. eds., Reproduction, Globalization, and the State. 2011. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.


Outstanding Graduate Student Teaching Award, Dept. of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA, 2001.
Outstanding Research Mentor Award, Dept. of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, UCLA, 2003.
Medical Anthropology Student Association MASA Mentoring Award, Society for Medical Anthropology, 2009.