Skip to main content
Ellen Gruenbaum

Ellen Gruenbaum

Emeritus Faculty // Anthropology
Emeriti Faculty

Curriculum vitae

Office and Contact

Ellen Gruenbaum studied Anthropology at Stanford University (A.B.) and the University of Connecticut (M.A. 1974 and Ph.D. 1982). She joined Purdue in 2008. She previously served as Professor of Anthropology and Dean of the College of Social Sciences at California State University, Fresno.



Women’s health issues, human rights, gender, religious practices, and development in Africa and the Middle East.

Ellen Gruenbaum is a culturally-oriented medical anthropologist. Her ethnographic research focuses on women’s health issues, gender, human rights, religious practices, and development in Africa and the Middle East. Using a feminist anthropological framework, she conducts research on female genital cutting practices and the change efforts promoting abandonment in Sudan and Sierra Leone, where she also served as a research consultant to UNICEF and CARE.

She also investigates cultural contexts affecting breast cancer responses and prevention possibilities, in Purdue’s international and cross-disciplinary project entitled International Breast Cancer and Nutrition, with collaborations in Ghana, Lebanon, and Uruguay.

Professional roles:

Her interest in the controversies among cultural self-determination, international human rights, and women’s rights led to her past service on the Committee for Human Rights of the American Anthropological Association and the Association for Feminist Anthropology. She currently serves as the secretary of the Society for Medical Anthropology. Gruenbaum is the author of The Female Circumcision Controversy: An Anthropological Perspective (University of Pennsylvania Press) and numerous articles and book chapters. She serves on the editorial advisory board of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies.

Recent Publications:

2022 “Reconsidering the role of patriarchy in upholding female genital modifications: Analysis of contemporary and pre-industrial societies.” (Co-Authors Brian D. Earp and Richard A. Shweder). IJIR: Your Sexual Medicine Journal.

2022 “Thoughtful comparisons: How do Genital Cutting Traditions Change in Sudan? A reply to ‘The Prosecution of Dawoodi Bohra Women’ by Richard Shweder.” (Co-Author Samira A. Ahmed), Special issue: Gender Equality in Abrahamic Circumcision: Why or Why Not? Global Discourse, 12,1:189-206.

2020 “Tensions in Motion: Female Genital Cutting in the Global North and South, Then and Now.” In S. Johnsdotter, ed., Female Genital Cutting: The Global North and South. Malmö, Sweden: Centre for Sexology and Sexuality Studies, University of Malmö, pp. 23-58. DOI 10.24834/isbn.9789178771240. Available at

2020 “Debating Deinfibulation: Why Some Women Resist the WHO Advice and What Clinicians and Researchers Can Do.” Archives of Sexual Behavior, published online April 9, 2020. Available at

2019 “Medically Unnecessary Genital Cutting and the Rights of the Child: Moving Toward Consensus.” The Brussels Collaboration on Bodily Integrity (91 co-authors). American Journal of Bioethics 19,10, 17-28.