PhD Candidate wins dissertation fieldwork grants from the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the Social Science Research Council

Student Spotlight: Sanghamitra Das

photo of Sangha with student spotlight photo

Sanghamitra Das is a PhD candidate in the Center for Biology and Society on the Bioethics, Policy and Law track. An Indian citizen, Sanghamitra arrived at Arizona State University (ASU) in 2018 with a background in the life sciences and science policy. At ASU, she has developed a doctoral project that brings together the disciplines of science and technology studies (STS), medical anthropology, and South Asian studies. Her PhD research is a multi-site ethnographic investigation of the management of sickle cell disease in India, a rare genetic blood disorder that predominantly affects marginalized communities in the subcontinent, as a public health problem.

In April 2021, Sanghamitra was awarded both the Wenner-Gren Foundation's Dissertation Fieldwork Grant and the Social Science Research Council’s Mellon International Dissertation Research Fellowship, two of the most prestigious and competitive awards in anthropological and social research. These grants will go towards funding her doctoral dissertation fieldwork. In the wake of the global COVID-19 pandemic, Sanghamitra has taken her dissertation as an opportunity for developing a hybrid ethnography that also employs digital ethnographic methods. Such an approach enables her to be attentive to the intersectionality of vulnerabilities––including ones caused by a highly infectious virus––that sickle cell sufferers are currently experiencing.

Sanghamitra has presented her research at several international conferences focusing on bioethics, public health, and futures analysis. In Fall 2020, she co-authored a research article with a collaborator in India discussing the role of female community health workers in the management of the COVID-19 pandemic in India. This first-authored article is forthcoming in the Spring issue of Catalyst: Feminism, Theory, Technoscience, a top journal in feminist STS theory. The article discusses the epistemic significance of “poor women’s voluntary work” in dealing with the ongoing public health crisis, situating it in the long-standing struggle for women’s professional recognition within the Indian public health system. The article highlights the policy implications of recognizing female community health workers’ medical labor for inclusive public health agendas in India.  

At ASU, Sanghamitra is a member of the Graduate and Professional Student Association (GPSA), the Biology and Society Lab Group, and the Borderlands Laboratory headed by Professor Lindsay A. Smith. Sanghamitra is also a member of the Maricopa County Public Health Medical Reserve Corps and has been actively volunteering with the county as a non-medical volunteer at various COVID-19 vaccination sites. Most recently, she volunteered as a translator for Rohingya refugees at a pop-up COVID-19 vaccination camp organized by the Maricopa County Department of Public Health. In addition to performing community service, Sanghamitra’s public engagement endeavors include writing for online media publications on issues at the intersections of biomedicine, health, culture and society. In her time of leisure, Sanghamitra strives towards improving her culinary skills and picking up new languages.

Author: Sanghamitra Das