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Whitney Duncan

Whitney Duncan


Department of Anthropology
College of Humanities & Social Sciences

Contact Information

(970) 351-2260
Cand 2056
Office Hours
Tuesdays/Thursdays 12:30-2:30pm and via Zoom by appointment
Mailing Address
University of Northern Colorado
Department of Anthropology
Campus Box 90
Greeley, CO 80639


PhD, Anthropology, University of California, San Diego
MA, Anthropology, University of California, San Diego
BA, English, Columbia University

Professional/Academic Experience

Research/Areas of Interest

I am a medical and psychological anthropologist whose creative and academic work centers on immigration and the sociopolitical, cultural, and global aspects of health, self, and emotion. 

I have two main lines of research. First, I examine the cultural and socioeconomic dimensions of mental health in global perspective. In particular, I have researched the globalization of psychology and psychiatry in southern Mexico (Oaxaca), the emotional and mental health impacts of migration for Oaxacan migrants and their non-migrating family members, and Latinx experiences of mental health treatment and psychological care in Colorado.

Focusing on experiences and understandings of emotions, mental health, and psychological and psychiatric services, I am concerned with how individuals and communities make sense of and seek to resolve social and personal distress. I examine the subjective impacts of broader global and domestic processes such as migration, healthcare reform and provision, and widely circulating "psy" ideas about what it means to be a healthy person in the contemporary world, asking how such processes are transformative for and transformed by particular cultural contexts.

My first book, Transforming Therapy: Mental Health Practice and Cultural Change in Mexico, based on my research in Oaxaca, was published in July 2018. Ahead of its publication the book was awarded the Norman L. and Rosalea J. Goldberg Prize from Vanderbilt University Press for best book in the area of medicine.

My second line of research directly addresses immigration, health, and Latinx health disparities, as well as the ways in which federal, state, and local health and immigration policies affect immigrant health. In this vein, I have recently wrapped up data collection for a 4-year National Science Foundation-funded project, “An Ethnographic Study of Local-Level Policy Implementation,” an exploration of Latinx immigrant experiences with the healthcare system and the ways in which federal, state, and local health and immigration policies affect immigrant health.

Please see my recent article in Social Science & Medicine, co-authored with UNC student Lupita Nabor Vazquez, “‘I don’t feel that we are a burden’: Latinx Immigrants and Deservingness during the COVID-19 Pandemic.” 

Related to my research and advocacy work with immigrant communities, I have a forthcoming co-edited volume (with Kristin Yarris, University of Oregon) titled Accompaniment with Im/migrant Communities: Ethnographic Engagements (University of Arizona Press, 2024).

My creative writing addresses all of the above themes, and I am currently at work on a poetry manuscript. I am a member of the 2023-2024 Lighthouse Writers Poetry Collective. 

In 2014, I launched Project HealthViews, a collaborative, interdisciplinary medical anthropological project on state health policy and immigrant understandings, experiences, and perceptions of health and healthcare. Project HealthViews is a community engagement collaboration between myself, UNC students, local safety net clinics, and immigrant-serving organizations. The goals of this project are (1) to help legislators, local organizations, and the general public better understand immigrant health and healthcare challenges; (2) to help inform policy on healthcare and health insurance coverage for Colorado-based immigrants’ (3) to help improve immigrant healthcare access by providing information about what services and programs are available to immigrants, regardless of immigration status; and (4) to provide students hands-on health-related research experience in the local community. Please contact me if you’re interested in getting involved!

I am committed to public and engaged scholarship, and work actively with the Scholars Strategy Network, the Anthropologist Action Network for Immigrants and Refugees, the Colorado Immigrant Rights Coalition, and American Friends Service Committee immigrant advocacy services.

Currently I am in training to become a certified mindfulness instructor through the Mindfulness Institute for Emerging Adults; please contact me if you are interested in taking one of my meditation courses!

Publications/Creative Works

Yarris, Kristin and Whitney L. Duncan, editors. Accompaniment with Im/migrant Communities: Ethnographic Engagements. University of Arizona Press (Forthcoming Spring 2024).  

Duncan, Whitney L. and Lupita Nabor Vazquez (2023). “‘I don’t feel that we are a burden’: Latinx Immigrants and Deservingness during the COVID-19 Pandemic.” Social Science & Medicine. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.socscimed.2023.116125

Reyes-Foster, Beatriz and Whitney L. Duncan. “Conditions of People with Mental Illness and Psychosocial Disability in Mexico.” Regional Expert Paper Series, Columbia University Institute of Latin American Studies.

Duncan, Whitney L. (2022). “Dear D.” Creative Nonfiction Essay published as American Anthropologist Web Content. (Traducción al español)

Duncan, Whitney L. & Beatriz Reyes-Foster (2022). “Truth and Responsibility in Expert Witnessing.” Annals of Anthropological Practice 46(1): 87-90.

Duncan, Whitney L. (2021). “Verification Settings.” Poetry published in Anthropology & Humanism 47(1): 240-242. 2nd Prize, Society for Humanistic Anthropology Ethnographic Poetry Competition.

Yarris, Kristin; Sarah Horton; and Whitney L. Duncan. “Engaging with Worker Relief Funds: Countering Immigrant Exclusion During the Pandemic.” Society for Applied Anthropology News, 32(3).

Horton, Sarah B. and Whitney L. Duncan (2021). “Why the American Rescue Plan Should Provide Economic Stimulus to all Taxpaying Immigrants.” Policy Brief, Scholars Strategy Network.

2020. Reyes-Foster, Beatriz and Whitney L. Duncan. “Facing Mexico’s Mental Health Fallout.NACLA Report on the Americas 52(3): 282-288.

Horton, Sarah B. and Whitney L. Duncan (2020). “Expand Emergency Medicaid To Cover Comprehensive COVID-19 Treatment.” Policy Recommendation, Scholars Strategy Network “Beyond Flattening the Curve” series.

Horton, Sarah B. and Whitney L. Duncan (2020). “Guest Post: Provide Colorado’s Immigrant Families Rental Relief.” The Colorado Independent, May 1, 2020.

Duncan, Whitney L. and Sarah B. Horton (2020). “Serious Challenges and Potential Solutions for Immigrant Health During COVID-19.” Health Affairs Blog April 18, 2020.

Duncan, Whitney L. (2019). Book Review of Psychiatric Encounters: Madness and Modernity in Yucatan, Mexico, by Beatriz Reyes-Foster. Medical Anthropology Quarterly. https://doi.org/10.1111/maq.12550

Pritzker, Sonya and Whitney L. Duncan (2019). “Technologies of the Social: Family Constellation Therapy and the Remodeling of Relational Selfhood in China and Mexico.” Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry 43(3): 468-495. https://doi-org.unco.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s11013-019-09632-x

Horton, Sarah B., Whitney L. Duncan, and Kristin Yarris (2018). “Public Charge Provisions Hurt Citizen Children, Too.” The Hill Opinion Piece, December 9, 2018.

Horton, Sarah B., Whitney L. Duncan, and Kristin Yarris (2018). “Immigrant Communities and the Public Charge Rule.” Anthropology News Blog.

Duncan, Whitney L. (2018). Transforming Therapy: Mental Health Practice and Cultural Change in Mexico. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press.

Duncan, Whitney L., Lauren Heidbrink, and Kristin Yarris (2018). “Im/migration in the Trump Era.” Hot Spots, Cultural Anthropology website, January 31, 2018.

Duncan, Whitney L. (2018) “Acompañamiento/Accompaniment.” Hot Spots, Cultural Anthropology website, January 31, 2018.

Duncan, Whitney L. (2017). “‘Dinámicas Ocultas’: Culture and Psy-Sociality in Oaxacan ‘Family Constellations’ Therapy.” Ethos 45(4): 489-513. 

Duncan, Whitney L. (2017). “An Alternative Therapy Hits Home in Mexico.” Sapiens Magazine.

Duncan, Whitney L. (2017).  “Psicoeducación in the Land of Magical Thoughts: Culture and Mental Health Practice in a Changing Oaxaca.” American Ethnologist 44(1): 36-51.

Yarris, Kristin Elizabeth, Lauren Heidbrink, and Whitney L. Duncan. “Protecting Undocumented Students Post-Election: From Meeting to Action. Working Together to Protect Our Students.” Anthropology News, December 7, 2016. 

Duncan, Whitney L. (2015). “Gendered Trauma and its Effects: Domestic Violence and ‘PTSD’ in Oaxaca,” in Culture & PTSD, eds. Devon Hinton & Byron Good. University of Pennsylvania Press.

Duncan, Whitney L. (2015). “Transnational Disorders: Returned Migrants at Oaxaca’s Psychiatric Hospital.” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 29(1): 24-41. Winner, Society for Medical Anthropology, Anthropology of Mental Health Interest Group (AMHIG) Professional Paper Prize, 2016.

Calvario, Regina; Duncan, Whitney L.; Enríquez, Diana; López, Gilberto; Salgado, Hugo  (2013). “Migration and Mental Health in a Binational Mixteco Community,” in The Wall Between Us: A Mixteco Migrant Community in Mexico and the United States, eds. David Fitzgerald, David Keyes, & Jorge Hernández Díaz. La Jolla, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies.

Duncan, Whitney L.; Korwin, Laurel; Pinedo, Miguel; González-Fagoaga, Eduardo; and García, Durga (2009). “'Lucharle por la Vida': The Impact of Migration on Health” in Migration from the Mexican Mixteca: A Transnational Community in Oaxaca and California, eds. Wayne A. Cornelius, David Fitzgerald, Jorge Hernández Díaz, and Scott Borger. La Jolla, Center for Comparative Immigration Studies: Lynne Rienner Publishers.

Honors and Awards

2022 Provost Academic Revitalization and Innovation Fund to create an Accelerated Anthropology BA and Master’s of Public Health 4+1 Degree Program (ABAMPH)

2022 Fellow, UNC Humanities and Social Sciences Grantwriting Incentive Program

2021 2nd Prize, Society for Humanistic Anthropology Ethnographic Poetry Competition

2018-2022 National Science Foundation Senior Investigator Award for “Collaborative Research: An Ethnographic Study of Local-Level Policy Implementation.”

2019 Diversity in the Classroom Award, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Northern Colorado

2015-2018 Fellow, University of Northern Colorado Sponsored Research Fellowship Program

2017 Book manuscript, Transforming Therapy, awarded the Norman L. and Rosalea J. Goldberg Prize from Vanderbilt University Press for best book in the area of medicine

2017 Award for Excellence in Social Science Engaged Research, University of Northern Colorado

2015 UNC Engaged Faculty Scholar Award

Course Syllabi

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