Honors Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis


Sociology and Anthropology

First Advisor

Kate Centellas

Relational Format



Though biology is considered universal, this thesis argues against the assumption of the universal applications of biomedicine in favor of a biocultural approach, emphasizing shifting local ecologies in an increasingly globalized world. This research investigated Ecuadorian health within an ecological context in coordination with an international public health internship that was completed through the Universidad San Francisco de Quito and the Ecuadorian Ministerio de Salud Pública. Throughout this thesis, examples are provided demonstrating that globalization, though appearing as a homogenous process on the international level, creates heterogeneous effects on the local scale. To explain the mechanisms and implications of these heterogeneous effects, I conceptualize health relativities and local ecologies. The term health relativities I define as the different cultural norms for defining health and illness. Local ecologies I conceptualize as a community level contextualization of biocultural interactions. The choice of Ecuador as a research location provided the opportunity to observe different health relativities in relation to local ecologies. In other words, the differing local ecologies produced certain health relativities. Ecuador's high ethnic diversity also provided examples of how different groups may be impacted in relation to shifting local ecologies. Global processes today, ranging from the globalization of Western dietary practices to foreign-driven resource extraction and global climate disruption, require an in-depth understanding of how biocultural interactions occur on a local level within the context of the global processes. It is only through thick description that many variables may be extracted that would otherwise be ignored by statistical analysis. In addition, the evidence presented by this thesis demonstrates the inadequacy of a global solution to global problems. Though global processes may be the catalyst, differing local ecologies create the necessity for contextually based solutions.

Included in

Anthropology Commons



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