Jessica Hardin, PhD

Assistant Professor
UC Box 
Marsh Hall 235 (Forest Grove)


 PhD, 2014, Anthropology, Brandeis University

 MA, 2011, Anthropology and Women’s and Gender Studies, Brandeis University

 BA, 2004, History, magna cum laude, Fordham University


As a medical anthropologist, I study how people make illness, health and disease meaningful. I also study the relationship between structural inequalities and health. Specifically, I study how Samoan people in independent Samoa understand rapid epidemiological change, including rising metabolic disorders such as type II diabetes, hypertension, and obesity. In my research, I trace the intersections of the medicalization of food, fat, and fitness and Christian notions of health and well-being. I explore how medicalized notions of food, fat, and fitness travel into everyday evangelical religious life and also the ways those Christian notions of health and well-being travel into clinical settings. My research interests include medicalization, Christianity and health, well-being, food, metabolic disorders, and fat studies. To learn more about Professor Hardin please visit her website or her profile

Why did I become an anthropologist?

I studied history as an undergraduate and particularly focused on medieval studies and Central American political history. These seem like quite disparate areas of study, but for me the appeal was, in part, the charismatic professors who taught history like “talk story.” I was enthralled by the stories of political rivalries and religious change in both areas of historical study.

When I graduated, I knew I wanted to continue my studies through in-depth engagement around issues of power and inequality. However, it was only after I moved to New Zealand and worked as an agricultural laborer and tasting room staffer in the wine industry that I found anthropology. I decided to visit American Samoa, Samoa, Tonga, Fiji, and Niue. During my travels I was puzzled and tantalized by the food culture: a mixture of fast foods, starches, rice, pork, and Polynesian styled Chinese food. I was also interested the relationship between global inequalities, rising diabetes, and shifting food culture.

I realized I wanted to continue my studies not in the archive but by living in a place for a long time, talking to people, learning the language, and, as anthropologists like to say, systematically “hanging out.” Anthropology provided me a way to examine pressing social and cultural problems by making the familiar strange, and the strange familiar.

If you are a student, you can make an appointment with her here


Edited Volume

2013 McCullough, Megan, and Jessica Hardin, eds. Reconstructing Obesity: The Meaning of Measures and the Measure of Meanings. New York: Berghahn Books.

Refereed Journal Articles

Forthcoming. Hardin, Jessica. “Challenging Authority, Averting Risk: Intersectionality and Interpreting Christian Ritual in Samoa.” Journal of Contemporary Religion, special issue, “Ritual Risk and Emergent Efficacy: Ethnographic Studies in Christian Ritual.” Guested edited by Hillary Kaell and Jessica Hardin.

2015 Hardin, Jessica and Christina Kwauk.“Producing Markets, Producing People: Local Food, Financial Prosperity, and Health in Samoa.” Food, Culture & Society 18(3): 519-539.

2015 Hardin, Jessica. “‘Healing is a Done Deal’: Temporality and Metabolic Healing Among Evangelical Christians in Samoa.” Medical Anthropology. DOI:10.1080/01459740.2015.1092143

2015 Hardin, Jessica. “Christianity, Fat Talk, and Samoan Pastors: Rethinking the Fat-Positive-Fat-Stigma Framework.” Fat Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Body Weight and Society 4(2): 178-196. Special Issue “Religion and Fat = Protestant Christianity and Weight Loss? On the Intersections of Fat Studies and Religious Studies,” edited on Lynne Gerber, Susan Hill and LeRhonda Manigault-Bryant.

2015  Hardin, Jessica. “Everyday Translation: Health Practitioners’ Perspectives on Obesity and Metabolic Disorders in Samoa.” Critical Public Health 25(2): 125-138.

2012 Dryden, Eileen, Jessica Hardin, Julia McDonald, Elsie Taveras, and Karen Hacker. "Electronic Decision Supports for Obesity Prevention." Clinical Pediatrics 51(5): 490-497.

Book Chapters

Forthcoming. Hardin, Jessica. “Claiming Pule, Manifesting Mana: Ordinary Ethics and Pentecostal Self-making in Samoa.” In New Mana: Re-theorizing Mana across the Pacific, edited by Matt Tomlinson and Ty Kawika Tengan. Canberra: ANU E-Press.

Forthcoming. Hardin, Jessica. “‘God is Your Health’: Healing Metabolic Disorders in Samoa.” In The Way to Renewal: Christianity, Conflict, and Transcendence in Australia and the Pacific, edited Carolyn Schwarz and Fiona Magowan, 98-126. Leiden: Brill.

2013 Hardin, Jessica. "Fasting for Health, Fasting for God: Samoan Evangelical Christian Responses to Obesity and Chronic Disease." In Reconstructing Obesity: The Meaning of Measures and the Measure of Meanings, edited by Megan McCullough and Jessica Hardin, 107-130. New York: Berghahn Books.

Book and Film Reviews

2015  Hardin, Jessica. Review of van Dijk, Dilger, Burchardt, and Rasing, eds (2014). Religion and AIDS Treatment in Africa. Marginala. August 18.

2015  Hardin, Jessica. Review of Biltekoff (2013). Eating Right in America: The Cultural Politics of Food and Health. Allegra Lab: Anthropology, Law, Art, & World. April 15.

2015  Hardin, Jessica. Review of Saethre (2013). Illness Is a Weapon: Indigenous Identity and Enduring Afflictions. American Ethnologist 42(2): 381-382.

2015 Hardin, Jessica. Review of Jutel and Dew, eds (2014). Social Issues in Diagnosis: An Introduction for Students and Clinicians. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 29(1) b7-b9.

2014 Hardin, Jessica. Review of Jutel, Annemarie Goldstein and Kevin Dew (2014). Social Issues in Diagnosis: An Introduction for Students and Clinicians. Medical Anthropology Quarterly.

2014 Hardin, Jessica. Review of Joshi, Vibha (2012). A Matter of Belief: Christian Conversion and Healing in North-East India. Anthrocybib. June 9.

2014 Hardin, Jessica. Review of Suhr, Christian and Ton Otto (2011). Unity through Culture. Anthropology News, June.

2014 Hardin, Jessica. Review of Patterson, Mary and Martha Macintyre (2011). Managing Modernity in the Western Pacific. The Contemporary Pacific 26(1) 249-251.

2013 Hardin, Jessica. Review of Wentzell, Emily (2013). Maturing Masculinities: Aging, Chronic Illness, and Viagra in Mexico. Association of Feminist Anthropology Book Reviews.

2013 Hardin, Jessica. Review of Gershon, Ilana (2012). No Family is an Island: Cultural Expertise among Samoans in Diaspora. Pacific Affairs 86(3): 72-73.

2013 Hardin, Jessica. Review of Mendenhall, Emily (2013). Syndemic Suffering: Social Distress, Depression, and Diabetes Among Mexican Immigrant Women. Somatosphere.

Recent Presentations

Invited Talks

2015 “Rethinking the Fat-Positive-Fat-Stigma Framework.” Obesity Solutions Research Group. Arizona State University. September 18.

2014 “Embedded Narratives and Embodied Metaphors: Stress, Unforgiveness in the Mind, and Heaviness in the Heart.” Yale Ethnography and Social Theory Colloquium Series. December 4.

2013 “Ethnography, Chronic Disease, and Community-Based Research.” Population Science Discussion Group. Dana Farber Cancer Institute. July 24.

2013 “Conversion as Well-Being Wayfinding: Samoan Spiritual Responses to Heart Attacks, Strokes, and Sepsis.” University Seminar in the Anthropology of Religion, Teachers College, Columbia University. January 31.     

2012 “Intersecting Agendas: An Ethnography of Evangelical Churches and Public Health in Samoa.” Centre for Samoan Studies, National University of Samoa. October 10.

2012 “Faith and Health: Perspectives on Non-Communicable Diseases in Samoa.” Ministry of Health, Samoa. May 15.

2010 “Understanding Anapogi [Fasting]: Preliminary Observations.” Department of Social Science, National University of Samoa. July 20.

Conference Presentations

2016  “Sisters in Christ: Mentoring Friendships and Church Social Organization.” Working Session. Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania, San Diego, February 9-13.

2015  “Freedom and Stress: Pentecostal Expressions of Christian Difference in Samoa.” American Anthropological Association, Denver, November 18-22.

2015 “Discerning the Sick Body: Embodied Evidence and Critical Christianity in Samoa.” Society for the Anthropology of Religion, San Diego, April 16-19.

2015 “New Food in Samoa: Elemental Negotiations of Food Categories,” with Christina Kwauk. Working Session II. Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania, Santa Fe, February 3-8.

2014 “Spiritual Etiologies: Evangelical Christian Evidence of Inequalities and Metabolic Disorders in Samoa.” American Anthropological Association, Washington, DC, December 3-7.

2014 “Critique and the (un)Productivity of Wealth: Gift-giving, Tithing, and Christian Debate in Samoa.” Society for Cultural Anthropology, Detroit. May 9-10.

2014 “’It’s almost like paying for praying’: Alternative Economies of Blessings and Valuation.” American Ethnological Society, Boston. April 10-12.

2014 “The Chronicity of Healing: Conflicting Biomedical and Christian Healing Temporalities.” Society for Applied Anthropology, Albuquerque. March 18-22.

2014 “New Food in Samoa: Elemental Negotiations of Food Categories,” with Christina Kwauk. Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania, Kona. February 5-8.

2013 “The World Trade Organization Accession of a Pacific Island: Policy Processes and Food System Consequences in Samoa” with Nicholas Petersdorf, Shawn Arita, and Christina Kwauk. Yale Food Systems Symposium, New Haven. October 18-19. 

2013 “‘Father released me from her:’ Mentoring Friendships and Gendered Social Support among Evangelical Christians in Samoa.” SPA Invited Panel. American Anthropological Association, Chicago. November 20-24.

2013 “Engaging the Counterfeit and Developing Worship Style among an Intercessory Prayer Group in Samoa.” American Ethnological Society, Chicago. April 11-13.

2013 “Producing Healthy Food: Negotiating Meaning, Building Exports, and Addressing Obesity in independent Samoa,” with Christina Kwauk. Association for Social Anthropology in Oceania, San Antonio. February 6-9.


Dr. Jessica Hardin

Pacific University Anthropology Assistant Professor Jessica Hardin is among a select group of scholars to have recently received a prestigious Graves Award in the Humanities.

Anthropology Professor Jessica Harden published in New Mana: Transformation of a Classis Concept in Pacific Languages and Cultures.

Jessica Hardin, Anthropology, invited to speak to nationally funded Obesity Solutions research team at Arizona State University.

Held April 28, the CCE's annual Community Collaboration Celebration honored the contributions of students, faculty, staff and local partners over the past year.