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Noelle Sullivan

Professor of Instruction in Global Health Studies

PhD University of Florida 2011
Research and Teaching Interests

Global health, health sector reform, development, transnational governance and policy, international volunteerism, institutional cultures and bureaucracy, gender and sexuality, eastern Africa and United States


Sullivan’s current research explores international clinical volunteerism in the global South. Explored empirically in Tanzania across five fields seasons since 2011, including over 1600 hours of observations of international volunteer-Tanzanias interactions in health facilities, the project examines how the for-profit voluntourism industry maps onto the under-resourced health system in Tanzania, and to what effect for international volunteers, Tanzanian health professionals, patients, and the institutions more broadly. Supplementing the Tanzanian cases with wider discourses and practices of for-profit international voluntourism in health facilities found online, the results of this study are being developed into a book manuscript, tentatitively titled Within the Gaps of Global Health: International Clinical Volunteering in Tanzania. 

Her next project examines the U.S. health sector, and in particular the economic, environmental, microbial, administrative, and institutional effects of the turn towards disposable and limited-use medical implements. It investigates how notions of sterility and efficiency inform the logics by which health practitioners and administrators do their daily work, and implications of these practices for patients and microbes alike. 

Her previous research was a longitudinal ethnographic investigation of Tanzanian health institutions in transition in the wake of health sector reform and externally-funded global health interventions, primarily for HIV/AIDS, malaria, and reproductive health. It traces the ways that public health facilities in Tanzania have adopted, absorbed, and creatively engaged with the constraints and opportunities presented by donor-funded and government-prioritized initiatives over the past twenty years. With the Tanzanian government encouraging local institutions to establish public private partnerships, or PPPs, this research extends Sullivan’s original 11 month dissertation research to determine how institutions attempt to create PPPs and their own, institutionally-owned private businesses, in order to tackle pressing infrastructural and capacity shortages in the absence of government and donor support. This study of remaking of public health sectors through market logics and global health intervention provides important insights about the broader impacts of scarcity, narrow health targets, and even narrower budgets on opportunities and constraints that health sectors face in Tanzania, and beyond. 

Global Health Courses Taught

Intro to International Public Health

Volunteerism and the Need to Help

Global Health from Policy to Practice

Biomedicine and Culture

Qualitative Research Methods in Global Health

Global Health and Indigenous Medicine

HIV/AIDS in Africa

Gender and Sexuality in Global Perspective (forthcoming) 

Recent Publications

 Forthcoming   Sullivan, Noelle. “Like a Real Hospital”: Imagining Hospital Futures through Homegrown Public Private Partnerships in Tanzania. For special issue “Beyond Realism: Anthropology of Africa’s Medical Dreams” to be published in Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, Noémi Tousignant & Wenzel Geissler, guest editors. 

2018 Sullivan, Noelle. International Clinical Volunteering in Tanzania: A Postcolonial Analysis of a Global Health Business. For special issue, “Mobility and (Dis)connectivity in the Global Health Enterprise,” Dominik Mattes and Hansjörg Dilger, guest editors, Global Public Health 33(3): 310-324. doi: 10.1080/17441692.2017.1346695 

2017 Sullivan, Noelle. Multiple Accountabilities: Development Co-operation, Transparency, and the Politics of Unknowing in Tanzania’s Health Sector. In special section “In Search of Results: Anthropological Interrogations of Evidence-Based Global Health.” Elanah Uretsky and Elsa Fan, special editors, Critical Public Health 17(2): 193-204. doi: 10.1080/09581596.2016.1264572 

2016 Sullivan, Noelle. Hosting Gazes: Clinical Volunteer Tourism and Hospital Hospitality in

Tanzania. In Volunteer Economies: The Politics and Ethics of Voluntary Labour in Africa. Ruth Prince and Hannah Brown, eds. Pp. 140-163. Rochester, NY: James Currey. 

2016 Wendland, Claire, Susan Erikson, and Noelle Sullivan. Beneath the Spin: Moral Complexity and Rhetorical Simplicity in ‘Global Health.’ In Volunteer Economies: The Politics and Ethics of Voluntary Labour in Africa. Ruth Prince and Hannah Brown, eds. Pp. 164-182. Rochester, NY: James Currey. 

2012 Sullivan, Noelle. Enacting Spaces of Inequality: Placing Global/State Governance within a Tanzanian Hospital. In special issue, Hospital Heterotopias: Comparative Ethnographies of Biomedical Places. Alice Street and Simon Coleman, eds. Space and Culture 15(1):57-67. doi: 10.1177/1206331211426057 

2011 Sullivan, Noelle. Mediating Abundance and Scarcity: Implementing an HIV/AIDS-Targeted Project within a Government Hospital in Tanzania. In special issue, Global AIDS Medicine in East African Health Institutions. Anita Hardon and Hansjörg Dilger, eds. Medical Anthropology 30(2):202-221. doi:10.1080/01459740.2011.552453 

Select Recent Op-Eds

2018 Sullivan, Noelle & Lisa Ann Richey. “There are Better Ways to Fight Poverty than Giving Money to Corporations.” Huffington Post, May 24th

2018 Sullivan, Noelle. “HIV’s Ancient ‘Cousin’ is Ravaging Australia and Could Spread Worldwide.” The Hill, May 8th

2018 Sullivan, Noelle. “Baby Steps in the Senate are just That.” The Hill, April 20th

2018 Sullivan, Noelle. “Marital Status should not Define a Woman.” Role Reboot, April 4th

2018 Sullivan, Noelle. “When Volunteering Abroad does more Harm than Good.” Huffington Post, Feb. 11th

2017 Sullivan, Noelle and Nicole Berry. “Good Intentions and Murky Ethics: How Anthropology Matters in Short-Term Global Health Travel,” Anthropology News November/December edition. 

2017 Sullivan, Noelle. “Who Leads WHO Matters: Why Misconceptions about Africa Persist.” Medium, June 23rd

2017 Sullivan, Noelle. “The AHCA Debate is Missing Crucial Healthcare Costs.” The

Hill, June 1st

2017 Sullivan, Noelle. “The Trouble with Medical ‘Voluntourism’”. Scientific American, May 16th

2017 Sullivan, Noelle. “Why Market Logics Can’t Solve the US Health Care Crisis.” Truthout, May 15th

2017 Sullivan, Noelle. “The Right Way to Give.” US News & World Report, April 19th

2017 Sullivan, Noelle. “Why International Medical Volunteering Does More Harm Than Good.” Role Reboot, April 14th

2017 Sullivan, Noelle. “Neoliberalism is Killing Us: Economic Stress as a Driver of Global Depression and Suicide.” Truthout. April 2nd

2017 Sullivan, Noelle. “Telling the Anti-Vaccine Community They’re Wrong has been Tried for Years Now, and it Doesn’t Work—Here’s Another Approach.” AlterNet, March 14th

2017 Sullivan, Noelle. “Global Gag Rule’s Impact Goes Far Beyond Abortion.” Footnote, Feb. 10. 

2017 Sullivan, Noelle. “New Administration must look to Recent Past for Global Health Lessons.” The Hill. Jan. 18th

2016 Sullivan, Noelle. “Why is Healthcare so Expensive in the United States?” The Hill. Dec. 6th

2016 Sullivan, Noelle. “We Need to Stop Sending Unskilled Volunteers to Countries that Need Care.VICE Motherboard. Nov. 15th.