Biography: Associate Professor Susan Levine
School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics
University of Cape Town
Susan Levine is an Associate Professor of Anthropology in the School of African and Gender Studies, Anthropology and Linguistics at the University of Cape Town. She began her career as an anthropologist at the height of AIDS denialism in South Africa where she joined the national struggle for HIV/AIDS awareness. Her first project as a medical anthropologist in 2002 included travelling with a mobile cinema unit in South Africa , Mozambique and Lesotho to document the impact of documentary films produced by Steps for the Future about people living with HIV/AIDS. This powerful visual intervention created a bridge between public health, medicine, and the arts, which is a theme that Susan continues to develop in her research on paediatric illness, skin bleaching, sight impairment, and the political economy of health.
Susan’s Ph.D from Temple University (2000) on child labour in the Cape wine industry in South Africa has been published as Children of a Bitter Harvest(2013). The book introduces a creative style of non-fiction writing based on the ‘flash fiction.’ The ‘flash ethnography’ provides an alternative to the potentially alienating language of much academic writing, thus promoting a space for a more public anthropology. She is the editor of Medicine and the Politics of Knowledge (2012), a book that focusses on the ways in which medical diagnosis are produced and interpreted by people in Southern Africa, Latin America, China, and India.
Originally born in Cape Town, South Africa, her family emigrated to the United States when Susan was 4 years old in 1968. Her father was a leading pathologist at Stanford University in Palo Alto, California and had a strong attraction to the arts. He was known among his colleagues for rendering cancer cells with precision and beauty in his graphic illustrations. When he died of the very cancer that he had studied for a lifetime (Berkits lymphoma) at the age of 41, Susan witnessed the pitfalls of biomedical care, treatment, and the realities of being mortal. Her interest in bioethics, alternative medicine, and healing stems in part from this formative episode in her young life.
Susan is a born teacher, having won a Distinguished Teaching Award at the University of Cape Town and a national teaching award in South Africa. She is currently editing a book on critical pedagogy from the South.