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Associate Professor


A.B., Cultural Anthropology, Duke University; M.A., Ph.D., Anthropology, New York University

Teaching and Research Interests:

African ethnography and social history; gender and sexuality; medical anthropology; visual anthropology; ethnographic film; urban Africa; religion; Uganda, East Africa

Current Research:

Lydia Boyd is a cultural and medical anthropologist with a research focus in Uganda. Her work considers issues of health, religion, and the moral and political frameworks that shape health behavior. Her first book examined the interconnected effects of religious activism and global health policy on AIDS prevention and sexual health in Uganda. Preaching Prevention: Born-Again Christianity and the Moral Politics of AIDS in Uganda (Ohio University Press, 2015), investigated the impact of one of the U.S.’s largest global health programs to date – President’s Bush’s 2003 PEPFAR program — in terms of the cultural and moral logics that motivated Ugandan Christian activists who popularized its HIV-prevention strategies (“abstain and be faithful”). Broadly, this project considered how medical discourses of health and disease intersect with contemporary and historical anxieties concerning sexual morality, marriage, kinship, and gender relations in Uganda.

This research grew to consider other aspects of social activism within the born-again community in Uganda, including a study that focused on the moral and cultural cosmologies that have animated the backlash against homosexuality and sexual rights in Uganda. As part of her fieldwork with Ugandan Christian youth, she has also researched and written about the growing popularity of Christian popular culture and other religious media in Kampala, as well as the humanitarian relationships formed between American Christians and Ugandan Christians. This body of work examines the ways different models for ethical behavior compete in Uganda, and shape experiences with and understanding of the value of a variety of projects that fall under the umbrella of “development” and “global health.”

A second strand of Dr. Boyd’s research focuses on human rights discourse in Africa, especially as it relates to legislation limiting sexuality-based rights. She recently completed work on an edited volume that highlights case studies of contemporary right-based struggles on the continent: Legislating Gender and Sexuality in Africa: Human Rights, Society, and the State (Wisconsin 2020). Using sexual and gender-based rights as an analytic lens, this collection explores how contestations over gendered and sexual categories shed light on broader concerns over citizenship, moral personhood, economic change, and political agency in African communities today.

A third research area examines issues relating to reproductive and maternal health in Uganda. This current project addresses several overlapping topics, including women’s use of both biomedical and non-biomedical care during pregnancy, traditional discourses and practices shaping women’s experiences of health and fertility, and debates surrounding these issues in global and Ugandan national policy.

Dr. Boyd is also a documentary filmmaker and received a Certificate in Culture & Media from the interdisciplinary program in Media, Culture and History at New York University.

Selected Publications:

2020. Legislating Gender and Sexuality in Africa: Human Rights, Society, and the State. University of Wisconsin Press. Critical Human Rights Series (link).

2015. Preaching Prevention: Born-Again Christianity and the Moral Politics of AIDS in Uganda. Ohio University Press. Perspectives on Global Health Series (link).

Articles and Chapters
2022. “Ask and They Will Listen: Economic Justice, Political Agency, and a Right to Health in Uganda.” PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review. November 2022 (link).

2022. “Contested Freedoms: Human Rights, Decolonization, and Political Agency in Postcolonial Uganda.” In Decolonising State and Society in Uganda: The Politics of Knowledge and Public Life. James Currey Press (link).

2022. “PEPFAR, AIDS Prevention, and the Politics of American Compassion in Uganda.” In Global Faith and Worldly Power: Evangelical Internationalism and U.S. Empire. University of North Carolina Press (link).

2020. “Making Rights Visible: The Embodied Nature of Debates over Human Rights in Uganda.” In Legislating Gender and Sexuality in Africa. University of Wisconsin Press (link).

2020. “Circuits of Compassion: The Affective Labor of Uganda’s Christian Orphan Choirs.” African Studies Review 63 (3): 518-539, September 2020 (link).

2018. “The Gospel of Self-Help: Born-Again Musicians and the Moral Problem of Dependency in Uganda.” American Ethnologist 45 (2) (link).

2015. “‘Marriage is the Solution’: Born-Again Christianity, American Global Health Policy and the Ugandan Effort to Prevent HIV/AIDS.” In Globalization and Socio-Cultural Processes in Contemporary Africa. Palgrave Macmillan (link).

2014. “Ugandan Born-Again Christians and the Moral Politics of Gender Equality.” Journal of Religion in Africa 44(3/4) (link).

2013. “The Problem with Freedom: Homosexuality and Human Rights in Uganda.” Anthropological Quarterly 86(3) (link).