Cecilia Van Hollen


Cecilia Van Hollen is recognized for her work on the ethnographic effects of modernization on lower-class female reproducing populations in India. She received her doctorate at the University of California in Berkeley and San Francisco in 1988 in Medical Anthropology. She is currently the Director and Associate Professor at the National Resource Center for South Asian Studies, Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs, in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, at Syracuse University, in the department of Anthropology. Dr. Hollen’s areas of specialization include cultural anthropology, medical anthropology, reproduction, gender, development, nationalism, HIV/AIDS, and South Asia. Her research helped uncover the negative social consequences on the livelihood of low-income women in response to global health programs implemented in India shedding light on possible actions towards relieving population concerns.

Research and Work

Dr. Hollen’s first research project was on the medicalization of childbirth in the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu beginning in 1991 and finishing with the publication of her book, Birth on the Threshold: Childbirth and Modernity in South India[1]. This book received the Association for Asian Studies’ 2005 A.K. Coomaraswamy Book Prize for the best book in South Asia Studies. The book analyzes the impact of modernity on the experiences and decision-making processes of lower class women during childbirth, finding that emerging global biomedical models affect the process variably in this specific maternal phase.

Her second project examined the impact of HIV/AIDS on the experiences of pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood in India based on ethnographic research conducted between 2003 and 2008. Dr. Hollen’s research focused on the local responses to a global health program to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV. Although the program was implemented in India it was an effective public health intervention for reducing transmission rates. The study illustrated negative social consequences on the lives of low-income women who test HIV-positive during pregnancy.
Cecilia Van Hollen has also documented the way in which monetary incentives were provided to men and women to accept sterilization and insertion of intrauterine devices in hospitals in Tamil Nadu during the 1990s. Her research published in “Moving Targets: Routine IUD Insertions in Maternity Wards in Tamil Nadu, India”[2] showed signs of reduced fertility rate within the heavily populated state, in response to those motivators. [3]


In 1987 Dr. Hollen graduated with her Bachelors from Brown University, magna cum laude, in Anthropology and Religious Studies. Dr. Hollen began her distinct anthropology career as a Program Assistant for the Asia Foundation in 1988-1989. In 1992 she received her Masters from the University of Pennsylvania, before continuing to the University of California for her doctorate completed May 1998. From there she began as a Teaching Assistant and Writing Fellow at the University of Pennsylvania in the Fall of 1990 under the program titled “India through Western Eyes.” After a couple of Lecturer positions at the UC Berkley, she moved onto become an Assistant Professor for the Department of Anthropology at the University of Notre Dame. Thereafter she moved onto her present university, first as an Assistant Professor for a few years to later move on to her existing position. Dr. Hollen currently holds distinct positions as an Associate Professor and as Director for South Asian studies within the Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs, both of which are at Syracuse University.[4]

She had received the Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy Book Prize (2005) from the Association for Asian Studies for Birth on the Threshold: Childbirth and Modernity in South India for Best Book in South Asian Studies. In addition to that award she also had received the Appleby-Mosher Award in 2010 for her research on the “Biological Sketch of Miron Winslow: Language, Education, Missionaries, and Identity Politics in Colonial Ceylon and India.”



Van Hollen, Cecilia (2003) Birth on the Threshold: Childbirth & Modernity in South India. Berkeley: University of California Press

Articles and Chapters

Van Hollen, Cecilia. (2012) Breast or Bottle? HIV-Positive Women’s Responses to Global Health Policy on Infant Feeding in India. Medical Anthropology Quarterly 25(4).

Van Hollen, Cecilia. (2011) Birth in the Age of AIDS: local responses to global policies and technologies in South India In: Reproduction, Globalization, and the State: New Theoretical and Ethnographic Perspectives. Carolyn Sargent and Carole Browner, eds. Durham: Duke University Press: 83–95.

Van Hollen, Cecilia. (2011) HIV/AIDS: Global Policies, Local Realities. In: Companion to the Anthropology of India. Clark-Deces, ed. Blackwell and Wiley Publishers: 464–481.

Online Resources

Cecilia Van Hollen's curriculum vitae can be found on the Maxwell School of Syracuse University website or a direct link can be found here

You can learn more about her book, Birth on the Threshold on the University of California Press website


  1. ^ Van Hollen, Cecilia. (2003) Birth on the Threshold: Childbirth and Modernity in Southern India. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  2. ^ Van Hollen, Cecilia (1998) Moving Targets: Routine IUD Insertions in Maternity Wards in Tamil Nadu, India. Reproductive Health Matters 6(11):98-106
  3. ^ Hollen, C.V. Curriculum vitae. https://www1.maxwell.syr.edu/uploadedFiles/VanHollen_CV(1).pdf
  4. ^ Cecilia Van Hollen. Syracuse University. http://www.maxwell.syr.edu/faculty.aspx?id=6442451310