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Noelle Sullivan

Associate Professor of Instruction, Global Health Studies

PhD University of Florida 2011

Research and Teaching Interests

Global health, health sector reform, development, transnational governance and policy, international volunteerism, institutional cultures and bureaucracy, gender and sexuality, eastern Africa and United States


Sullivan’s current research explores international clinical volunteerism in the global South. Explored empirically in Tanzania across five fields seasons since 2011, including over 1600 hours of observations of international volunteer-Tanzanias interactions in health facilities, the project examines how the for-profit voluntourism industry maps onto the under-resourced health system in Tanzania, and to what effect for international volunteers, Tanzanian health professionals, patients, and the institutions more broadly. Supplementing the Tanzanian cases with wider discourses and practices of for-profit international voluntourism in health facilities found online, the results of this study are being developed into a book manuscript, tentatitively titled Within the Gaps of Global Health: International Clinical Volunteering in Tanzania.

Her next project examines the U.S. health sector, and in particular the economic, environmental, microbial, administrative, and institutional effects of the turn towards disposable and limited-use medical implements. It investigates how notions of sterility and efficiency inform the logics by which health practitioners and administrators do their daily work, and implications of these practices for patients and microbes alike.

Her previous research was a longitudinal ethnographic investigation of Tanzanian health institutions in transition in the wake of health sector reform and externally-funded global health interventions, primarily for HIV/AIDS, malaria, and reproductive health. It traces the ways that public health facilities in Tanzania have adopted, absorbed, and creatively engaged with the constraints and opportunities presented by donor-funded and government-prioritized initiatives over the past twenty years. With the Tanzanian government encouraging local institutions to establish public private partnerships, or PPPs, this research extends Sullivan’s original 11 month dissertation research to determine how institutions attempt to create PPPs and their own, institutionally-owned private businesses, in order to tackle pressing infrastructural and capacity shortages in the absence of government and donor support. This study of remaking of public health sectors through market logics and global health intervention provides important insights about the broader impacts of scarcity, narrow health targets, and even narrower budgets on opportunities and constraints that health sectors face in Tanzania, and beyond.

Global Health Courses Taught

  • Introcution to International Public Health
  • Global Health and Indeginous Medicine
  • Biomedicine and Culture
  • Qualitative Research Methods in Global Health
  • HIV/AIDS in Africa
  • Volunteerism and the Need to Help
  • Global Health from Policy to Practice
  • Gender and Sexuality in Global Perspective (forthcoming)

Recent Publications

  • Forthcoming   Sullivan, Noelle. “Like a Real Hospital”: Imagining Hospital Futures through Homegrown Public Private Partnerships in Tanzania. For special issue “Beyond Realism: Anthropology of Africa’s Medical Dreams” to be published in Africa: Journal of the International African Institute, Noémi Tousignant & Wenzel Geissler, guest editors.

  • 2018 Sullivan, Noelle. International Clinical Volunteering in Tanzania: A Postcolonial Analysis of a Global Health Business. For special issue, “Mobility and (Dis)connectivity in the Global Health Enterprise,” Dominik Mattes and Hansjörg Dilger, guest editors, Global Public Health 33(3): 310-324. doi: 10.1080/17441692.2017.1346695
  • 2017 Multiple Accountabilities: Development Cooperation, Transparency, and the Politics of Unknowing in Tanzania’s Health Sector. In special section “In Search of Results: Anthropological Interrogations of Evidence-Based Global Health.” Elanah Uretsky and Elsa Fan, special editors, Critical Public Health 17(2): 193-204. doi: 10.1080/09581596.2016.1264572
  • 2016 “Hosting Gazes: Clinical Volunteer Tourism and Hospital Hospitality in Tanzania.” In  Volunteer Economies: The Politics and Ethics of Voluntary Labour in Africa. Ruth Prince and Hannah Brown, eds. Pp. 140-163. Rochester, NY: James Currey.
  • 2016 Wendland, Claire, Susan Erikson, and Noelle Sullivan. Beneath the Spin: Moral Complexity and Rhetorical Simplicity in ‘Global Health.’ In Volunteer Economies: The Politics and Ethics of Voluntary Labour in Africa. Ruth Prince and Hannah Brown, eds. Pp. 164-182. Rochester, NY: James Currey.
  • Sullivan, Noelle. 2012. Enacting Spaces of Inequality: Placing Global/State Governance within a Tanzanian Hospital. For special issue, Hospital Heterotopias: Comparative Ethnographies of Biomedical Places. Alice Street and Simon Coleman, eds. Space and Culture 15(1):57-67. DOI: 10.1177/1206331211426057
  • Sullivan, Noelle. 2011. Mediating Abundance and Scarcity: Implementing an HIV/AIDS-Targeted Project within a Government Hospital in Tanzania. In special issue, Global AIDS Medicine in East African Health Institutions. Anita Hardon and Hansjörg Dilger, eds. Medical Anthropology 30(2):202-221. DOI: 10.1080/01459740.2011.552453

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