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Peter Locke

Co-Director of Undergraduate Studies; Associate Professor of Instruction, Global Health Studies

PhD, Princeton University 2009
Curriculum Vitae

Research and Teaching Interests

Global health, critical medical anthropology, development, Eastern Europe (especially the former Yugoslavia), West Africa (Sierra Leone), humanitarian psychiatry, post-conflict public health, science and technology studies


Peter Locke is a cultural and medical anthropologist focused on bringing ethnographic evidence to the comparative study of global health and humanitarian intervention in post-conflict societies. His field research, writing, and teaching all explore and critique the intersection of humanitarian work and reigning modes of evidence production in contexts of contentious local politics and lingering histories of conflict and mass violence.

Locke’s doctoral research in Bosnia-Herzegovina examined how the urban poor cope with traumatic histories and rebuild their lives in a new post-war state and economy; more specifically, he charted the impact and sustainability of humanitarian psychiatry and psychosocial support services for war survivors in Sarajevo. Locke’s dissertation (under revision as a book manuscript) aims to illustrate how anthropological evidence can help to ground debates about international humanitarianism and democracy-building, enrich social scientific and clinical approaches to trauma, and imagine alternative approaches to post-war social repair that better incorporate the values, needs, and desires of survivors.

More recently, Locke has accompanied small undergraduate teams to Sierra Leone to conduct ethnographic research on the encounter between the booming transnational discourses and practices of “global health” and local understandings of and struggles for healing, care, and survival. Locke has worked together with students and the leaders, caregivers, and beneficiaries of a small American-funded medical humanitarian NGO (nongovernmental organization) to explore how some of the key themes and dynamics of today’s “new world of global health” play out in one of Africa’s poorest nations, where public health infrastructure is deeply limited and a range of actors, from Western humanitarians to local networks of traditional healers, are struggling to fill in the void.

Prior to joining Northwestern’s faculty, Locke served as a postdoctoral research associate and then as a lecturer for Princeton University’s Program in Global Health and Health Policy.

Global Health Courses Taught

  • The Social Determinants of Health
  • Introduction to International Public Health
  • Qualitative Research Methods in Global Health
  • Health and Humanitarianism
  • War and Public Health
  • Trauma and Its Afterlives
  • Mental Health and the Arts

For advising needs/questions, students with last names starting with A-K should direct questions to Co-Director of Undergraduate Studies Dr. Peter Locke and students with last names starting with L-Z should direct questions to Co-Director of Undergraduate Studies Sarah Rodriguez

Recent Publications

  • “City of Survivors: Trauma and Humanitarian Psychiatry in Postwar Sarajevo.” Invited Lecture, Institute of Ethnography, Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts, Belgrade, Serbia, Dec. 11, 2023. 

    “Practical alternatives for meaningful and ethical research.” Session leader, international workshop on “Unpacking Ethical Dilemmas in Conflict and Disaster Research,” Tribhuvan University, Kathmandu, Nepal, November 29, 2023.

  • “Anthropology in and of a Changing Global Health.” Roundtable Participant, 122nd Annual Meeting of the American Anthropological Association (AAA), Toronto, Ontario, Canada, November 19, 2023.

  • “The Trauma Trope.” Panel participant (with Robin Means Coleman, Miriam Petty, and Ana Antic) at the symposium “Media and Mental Health: Exploring Contemporary Representations of Madness, Melancholy, and Trauma in Film and Television.” Northwestern University, May 25, 2023.

  • “The Weight of Survival: Fragments of Care in Sarajevo, 2007-2022.” Paper presented at the conference “In the Frictions: Fragments of Care, Health and Wellbeing in the Balkans,” Zadar, Croatia, April 30, 2023. Organized by the Department of Ethnology and Anthropology, University of Zadar, and the Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory, University of Belgrade.

  • “City of Survivors: Psychological Trauma and Social Services in Postwar Sarajevo.” Montgomery Lecture, Medical Humanities & Bioethics Program, Feinberg School of Medicine, Feb. 17, 2022.
  • Biehl, João, and Peter Locke, eds. 2017. Unfinished: The Anthropology of Becoming. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • “The effects of Societal Violence in War and Post-War Contexts” (with Hanna Kienzler). 2017. In Orr, David, and Sumeet Jain, eds., Palgrave Handbook of Global Mental Health, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 285-305.
  • “Anthropology and Medical Humanitarianism in the Age of Global Health Education.” 2015. In Sharon Abramowitz and Catherine Panter-Brick, eds., Medical Humanitarianism: Ethnographies of Practice, University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 193-208.
  • “Anthropology and Medical Humanitarianism in the Age of Global Health Education.” Book chapter, in Sharon Abramowitz and Catherine Panter-Brick, eds., Medical Humanitarianism in States of Emergency, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014.
  • “Appropriating Trauma: Legacies of Humanitarian Psychiatry in Postwar Bosnia-Herzegovina.” 2012. Intergraph: Journal of Dialogic Anthropology 3(2).
  • Biehl, J., & Locke, P. (2010). Deleuze and the anthropology of becoming. Current Anthropology, 51(3), 317-351. DOI: 10.1086/651466