Seth M. Holmes PhD, MD

Associate Professor of Health and Social Behavior
  • 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: Critical Analysis of Gender, Sexuality, the Body and Health
  • ANTH 250J UCB/ANTH 211A UCSF: Ethnography: Theory and Method
Research Interests: 
  • Population health with focus on health disparities, social determinants of health, and global health
  • Medical anthropology with focus on social theory and ethnography
  • Social studies of medicine and science
  • Social difference, especially related to race, social class, citizenship, gender, and sexuality
  • The naturalization and normalization of social hierarchies and health disparities
  • Social suffering and symbolic violence
  • Gender theory, queer theory and LGBTQ health
  • Immigration and migration
  • Death and dying
  • Urban and rural Latin America and North America, and Europe
Research Description: 

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

Current Projects: 

Dr. Holmes is currently investigating social hierarchies and health disparities in the context of US-Mexico migration and the ways in which these inequalities become understood to be natural and normal. 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. Concurrently, he is conducting research into the processes through which medical trainees learn to perceive and respond to social difference. In addition, Dr. Holmes is exploring new interdisciplinary research into the social, cultural, and political processes producing high HIV death rates among specific groups of people, notably Latino day laborers and other ethnoracial minorities, homeless people, and sexual minorities. This new project addresses the ways in which political economic structures and social categories affect individual behavior and vulnerability.

Selected Publications: 

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

Holmes SM and H Castaneda. "Ethnographic Research in Migration and Health." In Migration and Health Research Methodologies. University of California Press. In Press.

Holmes SM. 2012. The Clinical Gaze in the Practice of Migrant Health: Mexican Migrants in the United States. Social Science & Medicine. 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, Seth M. ABD'De Gocmenlerin Sagliginin Sosyal Baglami Uzrine Etnografik Bir Calisma. Turk Tabipleri Birligi Mesleki Saglik ve Guvenlik Dergisi (Turkish Medical Association Journal of Occupational Health and Safety). 2010-2011 (Published in July 2011) 38: 44-48.

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

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. 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: 
  • 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)
    • 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 and Minor in LGBT Studies (UC Berkeley)
    • Center for Race and Gender (UC Berkeley)
    • Department of Medicine (San Francisco Department of Public Health and Alameda County Medical Center's Highland Hospital)
    • Center for Comparative Immigration Studies (UC San Diego)
  • Co-Director, MD/PhD Track in Medical Anthropology UC Berkeley and San Francisco
  • Clinical Work: HIV primary 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: November 16, 2015