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Professor and Head of Programme

ContactRuth Fitzgerald_large

Room 5C24
Tel +64 3 479 8169

Research interests

My fields of research can be summarised as follows:

  • anthropology of health and medicine (area specialisation: Aotearoa/New Zealand) with a specific focus on ideologies in health, practises of care, and moral reasoning in health dilemmas, clinical anthropology and oral health.
  • biotechnologies of health with a specific focus on the cultural significance in Aotearoa/New Zealand of genetic testing, moral reasoning and TOP (termination of pregnancy), the cultural worlds of scientists as health workers, the embodied risks of consumption (food scares) and the media constructions and public perceptions of such technologies.
  • qualitative research methods with a specific focus on the ethnographic study of ethnically diverse urban societies, grounded theory, narrative theory, media analysis and embodiment; with longstanding interest and experience in interdisciplinary research collaborations between sciences and humanities.

In overview, my research interests are in the disciplinary subfield of medical anthropology, in which I take a sociocultural approach. My work draws its inspiration from a deep commitment to the study of health and illness in its social and political context.

The range of my research projects and outputs is quite wide as they reflect my central interests of ideologies in health, care, inequalities in health care provision and moral reasoning - topics which are in themselves quite open ended and multifaceted concepts. Thus my work has been both diverse in topic (exploring health policy, health practitioners, problematising disability, pioneering the social study of the impact of new technologies in New Zealand medicine, media analysis of health debates, lay meanings of oral health etc) as well as methodologically flexible (frequently working in interdisciplinary collaborations and publishing in 'hard' as well as social science journals).


  • ANTH105 Global and Local Cultures
  • ANTH210 Translating Culture: Reading Ethnographic Texts
  • ANTH211 Comtemporary Ethnographic Research
  • ANTH222 Conceiving Reproduction
  • ANTH223 Anthropology of Health
  • ANTH322 Conceiving Reproduction
  • ANTH323 Anthropology of Health
  • ANTH423 Bodies, Technologies and Medicine
  • POPH192 Population Health


  • 2014, Wenner Gren Foundation, Combined ASAANZ/AAS Conference 'Cosmopolitan Anthropologies', (PIs Assoc. Prof Ruth Fitzgerald, Assoc. Prof. Chrystal Jaye, PhD Candidate Molly George) $US 20,000.
  • 2014, UORG, Changing the way we play at school: hearing the children's voice, (PIs Assoc. Prof. Ruth Fitzgerald, PhD Candidate Molly George, Assoc. Prof Rachael Taylor. $21,359.
  • 2014, Royal Society Conference Grant, Combined ASAANZ/AAS Conference 'Cosmopolitan Anthropologies', (PIs Assoc. Prof Ruth Fitzgerald, Assoc. Prof. Chrystal Jaye, PhD Candidate Molly George), $1500.
  • 2012, Ministry of Health, Oral Health Self Care for Low Income Dunedin Adults. $NZ230,000,  (PIs Prof Murray Thomson, Dr Ruth Fitzgerald, Prof John Broughton).
  • 2011, Humanities Division Summer Studentship, Nov 2011 – Feb 2012. $NZ5000 (PI)
  • 2011, HDG, Exercising the Right to Choose? Men, Moral Reasoning, Abortions and Care, $NZ6,000 July 2011 – March 2012. (PI)
  • 2010, Marsden, Troubling Choice. Exploring and explaining techniques of moral reasoning for people living at the intersection of reproductive technologies, genetics, and disability, $NZ735,000, Feb 2011 – Feb 2014. (PIs Dr Ruth Fitzgerald, Assoc. Prof. Julie Park, University of Auckland, and Assoc. Prof. Mike Legge, University of Otago).
  • 2010, ORG, Exercising the Right to Choose? Southern Men, Moral Reasoning, Abortions and Care, $NZ10,000, Jan 2011- Jan 2012. (PI)
  • 2009, ORG, Exercising the Right to Choose? Moral decision making by South Island women over pregnancy terminations, $19,271, Jan 2010 – Jan 2011. (PI)
  • 2009, Royal Society of New Zealand, Funding for face to face meeting for international collaborators on the research project, Filial Duty and the Virtuous Saint, $NZ6,500, July 2009- July 2010. (PIs Dr Ruth Fitzgerald,  Prof. Charles Nuckolls, BYU, Utah and Assoc. Prof. Mike Legge, University of Otago).
  • 2005, ORG, Conceiving Reproductive Scientists, $NZ50, 861, Jan 2005 – Jan 2007. (PIs Dr Ruth Fitzgerald, Assoc. Prof. Mike Legge, University of Otago).
  • 2004, Quality Improvement Initiatives Fund, Tutorial Group Improvement Initiative, $7,500, (PIs Dr Ruth Fitzgerald, Dr Carol Bond HEDC, Ms Martin and Mr van der Meer OUSA).
  • 2003, ORG The Political Economy of Occupational Overuse Syndrome $NZ26,839 (PIs Dr Chrystal Jaye, Dept of General Practice, Dr Ruth Fitzgerald).
  • 2001, Divisional Research Grant, Nurse Prescribing in Southern Rural New Zealand,  $NZ5,000 9.11.01 – 31.12.02. (PI)

Recent conference papers and technical reports

Bathard H., Broad R., Fitzgerald R.P., Legge M. (2013) Conversations with 3 South Island families about the lived experience of heritable deafness, the meanings of disability and reproductive decision-making. Published by RP Fitzgerald, Dept. Anthropology & Archaeology, University of Otago, 40 pages ISBN 978-0-9922626-0-0 (digital)

Fitzgerald R P, Legge M and N Frank (2012) Custodians of Eggs and Embryos: A Technical Report on the social and ethical meanings of the work of biological scientists working in HART, Published by RP Fitzgerald, University of Otago,16 pages ISBN 978-0-473-21859-1 (print) ISBN 978-0-473-21860-7 (web)

Fitzgerald RP (2009) PGD, The Right to Choose, Disability and the New Zealand Organisation for Rare Disorders (NZORD). Conference Paper Presented at the Society for Medical Anthropology Annual Meeting, Yale University, New Haven, CT. September 24-27, 2009.


Fitzgerald, R. (2024, February). Care as seriality: Reflections on waiting at the bus stop for C21 health services. Keynote presentation at the Performance of the Real Research Theme Interdisciplinary Conference: Performing Care and Carelessness, Dunedin, New Zealand. Conference Contribution - Verbal presentation and other Conference outputs

Longmuir, K., Park, J., Fitzgerald, R., Legge, M., & Shore, C. (2023). Hope: Valuing lives and persons with degenerative conditions: Duchenne muscular dystrophy. Sites, 20(1), 1-26. doi: 10.11157/sites-id526 Journal - Research Article

Fitzgerald, R. P. (2023). Prenatal screening. In K. Dew & S. Donovan (Eds.), Encyclopedia of health research in the social sciences. (pp. 254-268). Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar. [Encyclopaedia/Dictionary Entry]. Chapter in Book - Research

Fitzgerald, R. (2023, November). Critical readings of community wellbeing. Verbal presentation at the Northern Network for Empirical Music Research (NEMuR) Ninth Meeting, [Hybrid]. Conference Contribution - Verbal presentation and other Conference outputs

Fitzgerald, R., & Park, J. (2022). Biotechnologies of care. In M. Singer, P. I. Erickson & C. E. Abadía-Barrero (Eds.), A companion to medical anthropology. (2nd ed.) (pp. 358-372). Hoboken, NJ: Wiley. doi: 10.1002/9781119718963.ch20 Chapter in Book - Research

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