Seth M. Holmes PhD, MD

Associate Professor of Public Health and Medical Anthropology
  • PhD - UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco
  • MD - UC San Francisco
  • Internship and Residency - University of Pennsylvania
  • Teaching Fellow - Division of Medical Humanities, University of Rochester
  • Teaching Fellow - Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School
  • Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society Scholar, Columbia University
  • BS - University of Washington
  • PH 203A: Theories of Health and Social Behavior
  • PH 24: The Trouble with Normal: Gender, Sexuality, and the Body
  • ANTH 250J UCB/PH 290: Ethnography: Theory and Method
  • PH 299: Structural Competency: Responding to the Social Determinants of Health
  • ANTH 255/PH 298: Queer Health
Research Interests: 
  • Population health with focus on social determinants of health, transnational immigrant health, and global health
  • Medical anthropology with focus on social theory and ethnography
  • Social studies of medicine and public health
  • Social inequalities related to categories of race, social class, citizenship, gender, and sexuality
  • The naturalization and normalization of social hierarchies and health disparities as well as resistance to these processes
  • Social suffering and symbolic violence
  • Gender theory, queer theory, and LGBTQ health
  • Immigration and migration
  • Death and dying
  • Latin America, the United States, and Europe
Research Description: 

Dr. Holmes is a cultural and medical anthropologist and physician whose work focuses broadly on social hierarchies, health inequalities, and the ways in which perceptions of social difference may naturalize, normalize, or challenge these inequalities.

Current Projects: 

Dr. Holmes is currently investigating social hierarchies and health inequalities in the context of U.S.-Mexico migration, the ways in which these inequalities become understood to be natural and normal in society and in health care, and the moments in which these inequalities are resisted or challenged. This project draws on approximately eighteen months of full-time participant-observation, during which time Dr. Holmes migrated with undocumented indigenous Mexicans in the United States and Mexico, picked berries and lived in a labor camp in Washington State, pruned vineyards in central California, harvested corn in the mountains of Oaxaca, accompanied migrant laborers on clinic visits, and trekked across the border desert into Arizona. An article from this work has been awarded the Rudolf Virchow Award from the Society for Medical Anthropology, and the book Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Migrant Farmworkers in the United States received the New Millennium Book Award from the Society for Medical Anthropology, the Society for the Anthropology of Work Book Award, the Association for Humanist Sociology Book Award, and the James M. Blaut Award from the Cultural and Political Ecology Specialty Group of the Association of American Geographers. In addition, Dr. Holmes received the Margaret Mead Award for "bringing anthropology to bear on wider social and cultural issues." In addition to academic articles and the book, Dr. Holmes has written about this research for, The Huffington Post, and Access Denied, as well as been interviewed on multiple NPR, PRI, Pacifica Radio, and Radio Bilingue shows.  

Concurrently, he is conducting research into the processes through which medical trainees learn to perceive and respond to social difference; the perceptions and responses to refugees in Europe; and the means by which Mexican American youth in California navigate race, citizenship, education, health care, violence, and borders. Along with other faculty, students, practitioners, activists, and artists in the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine, Holmes is imagining and experimenting with alternatives to the current health care and racialized policing systems in the U.S. 

Selected Publications: 

Books and Edited Volumes

Holmes SM. Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies: Indigenous Mexican Farmworkers in the United States. University of California Press. 2013.

Hansen H, Holmes SM, and Lindemann D, eds. Ethnography of Health for Social Change. Social Science & Medicine. 2013; Dec; 99.

Holmes SM, Jenks A, and Stonington S, eds. Anthropologies of Contemporary Clinical Training. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry.  2011; 35(2). 

Holmes SM, Stonington S, eds. Social Medicine in the Twenty First Century.  Public Library of Science Medicine. 2006, Oct; 3(10). 

Selected Articles

Holmes SM, Castaneda H. “The European Refugee Crisis: Difference, Deservingness, Life and Death.” American Ethnologist. 2016; 43(1):1-13. 

Holmes SM, Castaneda H, Burrell J. “American Politicians’ Reactions to Refugees Echo Past Xenophobia: Which Side of History Do We Want to Be on?”  November 11, 2015. 

Castaneda H*, Holmes SM*, Beyeler N, Madrigal D, Young M, Quesada J. “Immigration as a Social Determinant of Health.” Annual Review of Public Health.  2015; 36: 375-392.  *Co-first authors. 

Holmes SM, Hales M. “Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us by S. Lochlann Jain.”  Speaking of Medicine, Public Library of Science Medicine. 2015.

Holmes SM, Green, J, Stonington S. “Locating Global Health in Social Medicine.”  Global Public Health. 2014: 13:9(5):475-80. 

Holmes SM, Castaneda H. “Ethnographic Methods in Migration and Health Research.”  Chapter in Migration and Health Research Methodologies. Eds. Schenker M, Castaneda X.  University of California Press. 2014.

Holmes, S.M. "Health Care and the Stalling of Immigration Reform." Huffington Post.  January 8, 2014.

Holmes, S.M. “The danger of U.S. border control policy.” Access Denied. August 15, 2013. 

Holmes SM. “Is It Worth Risking Your Life?: Ethnography, Risk and Death on the U.S.-Mexico Border.” Social Science & Medicine. 2013; 99: 153-161. 

Hansen H, Holmes SM, and Lindemann D, eds. “Ethnography of Health for Social Change: Impact on Public Policy and Perception.” Social Science & Medicine.  2013; 99:116-8. 

Martin E, Litchfield G, Parvez F, Lindemann D, Holmes SM, Hansen H.  “Enhancing the Public Impact of Ethnography.” Social Science & Medicine. 2013; 99:205-8.

Hansen H, Donaldson Z, Bearman P, Harper K, Holmes SM, Hopper K, Link B, Lovasi G, Springer K, Tietler J. “Independent Review of Social and Population Variation in Mental Health Could Improve Diagnosis in DSM Revisions.”  Health Affairs. 2013; 32(5):1-10.   

Holmes SM. The Clinical Gaze in the Practice of Migrant Health: Mexican Migrants in the United States. Social Science & Medicine. 2012. 74(6) : 873-881.

Holmes SM. Structural Vulnerability and Hierarchies of Ethnicity and Citizenship on the Farm. Medical Anthropology. 2011; 30(4):425-49.

Holmes SM. Anthropology and Its Contact Zones. Kroeber Anthropological Society Papers. 2011; 100(1):5-7.

Holmes SM and Ponte M. En-case-ing the Patient: Disciplining Uncertainty in Medical Student Patient Presentations. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry. 2011; 35(2):163-82.

Holmes SM, Jenks AC, Stonington S. Clinical subjectivation: anthropologies of contemporary biomedical training. Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry. 2011; 35(2):105-12.

Holmes SM. Don’t Misrepresent the Triqui. Monterey County Herald. 2009; Jan. 29.

Holmes SM. Media Representations of Triqui Marriage Unjust. Salinas Californian. 2009; Jan. 24.

Holmes SM. Oaxacans Like to Work Bent Over: The Naturalization of Social Suffering Among Berry Farm Workers. International Migration. 2007; 45(3):39-68.

Holmes SM, Rabow M, Dibble S. Screening the Soul: Physician and Patient Communication at the Beginning of the End of Life. American Journal of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. 2006, Jan; 23(1):25-34. PubMed: PMID 16450660.

Holmes SM. Parce qu'ils sont plus pres sol: L'invisibilisation de la souffrance sociale des cueilleurs de baies. Actes de Recherche en Sciences Sociales. 2006; 165(2):28-51.

Holmes SM. An Ethnographic Study of the Social Context of Migrant Health in the United States. Public Library of Science Medicine. 2006; 3(10):e448.

Holtz T, Holmes SM, Stonington S, Eisenberg L. Health is Still Social: Contemporary Examples in the Age of the Genome. Public Library of Science Medicine. 2006; 3(10):e419.

Stonington S, Holmes SM. Social Medicine in the Twenty-First Century. Public Library of Science Medicine. 2006; 3(20):e455.

Holmes SM. Pathologies of Power. Perspectives in Biology and Medicine. 2005; 48(1):153-156.

Other interests: 
  • Founding Co-Chair, Berkeley Center for Social Medicine
  • Co-Director, MD/PhD Track in Medical Anthropology (UC Berkeley and UCSF)
  • Affiliated Faculty:
    • Joint PhD in Medical Anthropology (UC Berkeley Department of Anthropology and UCSF Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine)
    • Department of Anthropology (UC Berkeley)
    • Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine (UC San Francisco)
    • Center for Race and Gender (UC Berkeley)
    • Institute for the Study of Societal Issues (UC Berkeley)
    • Program in Critical Theory (UC Berkeley)
    • Center for Science, Technology, Medicine and Society (UC Berkeley)
    • Joint Medical Program MD/MS (UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco School of Medicine)
    • Health Disparities and Diversity Cluster of the Haas Diversity Research Center (UC Berkeley)
    • Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality (UC Berkeley)
    • Center for Race and Gender (UC Berkeley)
    • Department of Medicine (Alameda County Medical Center's Highland Hospital)
    • Center for Comparative Immigration Studies (UC San Diego)
    • Center of Expertise in Migration and Health (UC System Wide)
  • Clinical Work: HIV primary care, transgender primary care, refugee care, and palliative end of life care in the public health care system
  • Founding member of the Society for Humanities and Social Sciences and Medicine
  • American Public Health Association
  • American Anthropological Association
  • Society for Medical Anthropology
  • Society for Urban, National and Transnational/Global Anthropology
  • National Physicians Alliance
  • American Physician Scientist Association
Profile Updated: April 8, 2016