Penny Van Esterik
Department of Anthropology, York University
Research keywords: Nutritional anthropology; gender and development; culture history of Southeast Asia; advocacy anthropology
Professor Van Esterik is Emerita Professor of Anthropology; she has done most of her research in Southeast Asia (Thailand, Lao PDR, Malaysia and Indonesia) with additional field experience in Kenya, Colombia, United States and Canada. Research interests include nutritional anthropology, gender and development, culture history of Southeast Asia, and advocacy anthropology. She has published several books on Southeast Asian topics, including Cognition and Design Production in Ban Chiang Painted Pottery (1981), Women in Southeast Asia (1982, republished in 1996), Taking Refuge: Lao Buddhists in North America (1993, republished in 2002), Materializing Thailand (Berg, Oxford, 2001), Food Culture in Southeast Asia (Greenwood Press 2008), in addition to articles on infant feeding, food symbolism, Theravada Buddhism, Southeast Asian refugees and material culture. Long-term research interests include infant feeding among the urban poor in developing countries (Beyond the Breast-Bottle Controversy, Rutgers University Press 1989), and advocacy work on women’s health (Women, Work, and Breastfeeding, 1992; Risks, Rights and Regulations: Communicating about Risk and Infant Feeding, 2002). Other publications with Richard O’Connor include From Virtue to Vice: Negotiating Anorexia (2015), and The Dance of Nurture: Negotiating Infant Feeding (2017). With Laurie Baker, she wrote Trying the Way, an ethnography of York University badly in need of updating. As a founding member of WABA (World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action) based in Malaysia, she combines academic writing with advocacy writing for public use internationally. In retirement, she continues research and writing, currently completing a IIAS publication in the Asian Heritage series, “Designs on Pots: Ban Chiang and the Politics of Heritage in Thailand” with the assistance of Alex Felipe; preparing a chapter on food and nutrition in Southeast Asia for the Cambridge History of Southeast Asia, and a chapter on Lao food for the “Handbook of Lao Studies” (forthcoming from Routledge). She now lives in Guelph and is an adjunct professor at the University of Guelph.