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T.S. Harvey

Associate Professor of Anthropology
Chair, Linguistics Program
T.S. Harvey
Effective Public Health Communications
Communities all over the globe face day-to-day public health threats that often get lost in larger political, economic, environmental and even medical interests. A recent outbreak of cyanobacteria in Lake Atitlán, Guatemala, made international headlines, but the local public health threat persisted. By studying the role of language in this crisis, T.S. Harvey identified new ways to communicate scientific and medical information that transcend language and cultural barriers for indigenous communities.

Areas of Expertise

Areas of Expertise:
  • Linguistic and medical anthropology
  • Language use in health care
  • Non-Western forms of public health
  • Coordination of health and disaster relief
College: Affiliations:
  • One Health Center (Water, Animals, Food and Society), UC Global Health Institute
Press Releases/Articles: Profile:

Select Honors and Distinctions

  • Fulbright award from the Council for International Exchange of Scholars (CIES) (2013–14)
  • Environmental Protection Agency Grant for One Health Center project, “Reducing the Risk of Waterborne Disease at Laguna Chichoj and Lago Atitlán, Guatemala through Collaboration, Education, and Participation” (2012)
  • Regent’s Faculty Fellowship and Development Award (2010–11)
  • CHASS Distinguished Teaching Award (2010)


Q: How is your research important to society?
My research on language use in health care explores the innovative uses to which anthropology, as the original interdisciplinary science of humankind, can be put to studying the complexities of human health and finding answers to the emerging needs of human beings. In the global-local world of the 21st century, our interconnectivity is much more than virtual — viruses travel without visas, bacteria know no borders and disease is indiscriminate, reminding us that the health of all is a human concern. Now, more than ever, our search for solutions must be cooperative, our findings shared and our interventions both collaborative and lasting.

Q: What are the big challenges researchers in your field are trying to address?
The sheer breadth of anthropology, which over the past century has expanded far beyond the original four fields of cultural, archaeology, linguistic and physical anthropology, make identifying the "big challenges" that anthropological researchers are seeking to address rather complex. A sense of the variability of scientific pursuits within anthropology might be expressed as follows: Our challenges are as diverse as the languages, cultures, peoples and topics that we study, as common as our shared humanity, as unique as the human personality, as old as our scientific fight against ignorance, bigotry and injustice, as new as the innovations in technology that are transforming our world, and as universal to the human condition as the air, land, and water upon which all life depends.

Q: What is the biggest myth about your research?
Perhaps the most pervasive myth about social science research in general is that it is somehow "soft" science, which tends to be contrasted unfavorably with "hard" science. Problematic metaphors aside, anthropology is the science (i.e., ology) of the "social" or, to be more specific, of human beings (i.e., anth). Many basic anthropological principles, based on decades of scientific research and social struggles to better understand our human differences without fear, indifference and prejudice, have become so ubiquitous within our society as to now be taken for granted, sadly. The neglect of these principles, if not countered by a commitment to educate each generation, may threaten our ability to sustain these hard-won social and scientific gains for the future.

Q: Who are the most influential public voices in your field and what are they saying?
One of the strengths of anthropology, when viewed from the outside, is also its most perplexing characteristic, that is, the field’s general discomfort with consensus and embrace of complexity. Concerned with redressing the historic ills of scientific traditions that have claimed to speak for others, anthropology has become increasingly concerned with creating spaces and opportunities for the subjects of research to speak for themselves, with the overarching aim of making the most influential public voices in anthropology the voices of the people.

Q: What does "Living the Promise" mean to you?
At its foundation, however varied one’s interpretation, "Living the Promise" points to our agreement as educators that there is something at the heart of what we do that not only requires but is worthy of our assurance to future generations. This assurance amounts to a 'promissory note' that we sign in the service of our students, communities and country to pursue and uphold the highest ideals of education and research.

Q: What is it about UCR that makes this a great place to do research, compared with other institutions?
UCR is a first rate research-one institution that recruits, encourages and facilitates scholars engaged in a wide range of innovative research. In my research area of global health in particular, UCR’s leading role in creating a University of California Global Health Institute (UCGHI), as well as our recent partnership with UC Davis to establish the One Health Center, focused on water, animals, food, and society make it an ideal environment for collaborative and innovative research.

Q: In your spare time, what are you reading?
"Strength to Love" by Martin Luther King Jr.
"Becoming Jefferson’s People" by Clay Jenkins
"The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens" by Wallace Stevens
Runner’s World magazine
WoodenBoat magazine
Virginia Wildlife magazine

Q: Do you have a personal hero?
I have a few personal heroes, whose principles, selflessness and contributions to improving the human condition are wells of inspiration, among them Mohandas K Gandhi, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Jonas Salk, and Franz Boas.

Q: How do your students inspire you?
My students, many of whom like me are the first generation in their families to attend a university, inspire me to create the kind of institution of higher education that is worthy of their aspirations, responsive to their changing needs, and reflective of their energy, curiosity and daring. Last year, I was humbled to receive the Distinguished Teaching Award, an honor for which I am both grateful and indebted to my students. Their optimism in the face of difficult times for our nation reminds me of the words of the English poet John Masefield, who wrote, "Few earthly things are more beautiful than a University," a sentiment that helps us recall the power of education articulated in the enduring words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who said, "Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come."

T.S. Harvey "In our global-local world of the 21st century, our interconnectivity is much more than virtual — viruses travel without visas, bacteria know no borders and disease is indiscriminate."

—T.S. Harvey