Crystal Biruk

Cite as:

Okune, Angela. 2018. "Crystal Biruk." In STS in "Africa" Personal Careers. In STS in "Africa" in Formation, created by Angela Okune and Aadita Chaudhury. In STS Across Borders Digital Exhibit, curated by Aalok Khandekar and Kim Fortun. Society for Social Studies of Science. August.


Crystal Biruk is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Oberlin College. Her research centers on the ethics and politics of intervention in the global South. She takes interest in how the growing presence of humanitarian, development, and scientific projects in sub-Saharan Africa reconfigures local social geographies, producing new kinds of status, mobility, expertise, and exclusions.

Her book (Duke University Press, 2018), titled Cooking Data: Culture and Politics in an African Research World, is an ethnography of the production of quantitative data by survey projects in Africa. She is beginning a second book project, tentatively titled Gay for Pay:The Labor of LGBT vulnerability in African NGO worlds, that takes interest in the emergence of same-sex identities and activism in Malawi, with particular focus on how 'lesbians' and 'gays' in Malawi come to occupy, perform, and know their vulnerability in the context of transnationally circulating LGBT-rights frames and language amid the AIDS epidemic.

This PECE essay helps to answer the STS Across Borders analytic question: “What people, projects, and products exemplify how this STS formation has developed over time?”

This essay highlights prominant and upcoming individuals working on critical science and technology issues in Africa and is part of a broader exhibit on "STS in Africa."

STS Across Borders In Brief

STS Across Borders is a special exhibit organized by the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) to showcase how the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) has developed in different times, places...Read more

How do raw units of information - numbers written into a questionnaire by data collectors - acquire value as statistics that inform national AIDS policy and interventions?

How do on-the-ground dynamics and practices of survey research cultures mediate the production of numbers?

How are quantitative health data and their social worlds coproduced and with what consequences for local economies, formulations of expertise, and lived experience?

(Biruk 2018, 5-6)

Biruk, Crystal. 2014. “Ebola and Emergency Anthropology: The View from the ‘Global Health Slot’ | Somatosphere.” Somatosphere (blog). October 2014.

AO: In this 2014 blog post by Crystal Biruk, she muses on the role of the medical anthropologist in a global health emergency and the expertise that medical anthropologists can contribute.Read more