Elliott M. Reichardt, from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, is pursuing a PhD in anthropology at Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences. Elliott’s dissertation research examines aging, access to healthcare, and the economy in rural communities in sub-arctic Canada. Elliott graduated from the University of Calgary with a bachelor’s degree in health sciences, and from the University of Cambridge with a master’s degree in health, medicine, and society. Elliott has broader scholarly interests on the history and anthropology of global health. His work has been published in Medicine Anthropology Theory and Medical History.

Current Research and Scholarly Interests

I am currently interested in the social production of optimistic futures, especially in global health projects. This means that I am interested in how governments, NGOs and scientists describe and understand social problems in such a form as to allow them to be solvable through intervention. This description, therefore, allows these agents to believe in the possibility of a desired future occurring. In constructing the possibility of a desirable future, these agents will often invoke specific styles or forms of historical narratives that reconfigure past failures as understandable and resolvable. This process of generating belief through constructing the past constitutes my topic of inquiry.

Previously, I have been interested in the emergence of global health in the Caribbean during the early 1900s as a distinct mode of practice, and its relationship to statecraft. This research has drawn upon archival research from digitized archival resources as well records and diaries held at the Rockefeller Archive Center in Sleepy Hollow, NY.

All Publications

  • "Mere guesswork": Clarifying the role of intelligence, mentality, and psychometric testing in the diagnosis of "mental defectives" for sterilization in Alberta from 1929 to 1972. History of psychology Reichardt, E. M., Stam, H. J., Tan-MacNeill, K. 2023


    From 1929 until 1972, the Alberta Eugenics Board (the Board) recommended that 4,739 individuals be sterilized. The original 1928 act that legalized eugenic sterilization stipulated that the surgery itself required the consent of the individual or their caregiver; however, in 1937, the Alberta government removed the consent requirement for such cases where the Board determined individual patients to be "mental defectives." By analyzing published reports, case histories, medical journals, and primary sources from the Board, we situate the concept of "mental defective" in a historical context to clarify the Board's diagnostic process. By analyzing how the Board found individuals to be "mental defectives," we challenge a previous historiographic assumption that intelligence tests played a critical or defining role in this diagnostic process. We argue that the notion of the "mental defective" used by the Board had a long history before the advent of intelligence testing and eugenic thought. This history helps to explain how and why the Board relied extensively on the broader examination of behavior, social status, and physical appearance as core evidence in the diagnosis of "mental defect." Intelligence tests were certainly important as they shed light on an individual's academic ability. However, this alone was only one part of "mentality." Defects of mentality were understood to be broad and multifactorial, and included difficult, if not impossible, to measure attributes such as personality, emotionality, and morality. Further research should incorporate the concept of mentality in the history of psychology, testing, and eugenics. (PsycInfo Database Record (c) 2023 APA, all rights reserved).

    View details for DOI 10.1037/hop0000236

    View details for PubMedID 37561482

  • 'To Awaken the Medical and Hygienic Conscience of the People': Cultivating Enlightened Citizenship through Free Public Healthcare in Haiti from 1915-34. Medical history Reichardt, E. M. 2020; 64 (1): 32-51


    This paper addresses the relative scholarly oversight of the history of public health in Haiti through a close examination of the colonial public health system constructed and operated by the United States (US) during its occupation of Haiti from 1915 to 1934. More than simply documenting a neglected aspect of Caribbean history, the paper offers the US occupation of Haiti as a remarkably clear example of a failed attempt to use a free public health service to cultivate a health conscientiousness among the Haitian citizenry through the aggressive treatment of highly visible ailments such as cataracts and yaws. I argue that the US occupation viewed the success of the Haitian Public Health Service as critical to the generation of a taxable, compliant and trusting citizenry that the colonial state could enter into a contract with. This idealistic programme envisioned by the US occupation was marred by financial mismanagement, racism, delusions of grandeur and contempt for Haitian physicians that resulted in the production of a far more precarious public health service and administrative state than the US occupation had hoped. By the time the Great Depression arrived in 1930 the Haitian Public Health Service was gutted and privatised, having successfully provided the majority of Haitians with free healthcare, yet failed to have persuaded them of the value of being governed by a centralised administrative state.

    View details for DOI 10.1017/mdh.2019.75

    View details for PubMedID 31933501

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC6945216

  • Relocating obesity with multiauthor ethnography Medicine Anthropology Theory Reichardt, E. M. 2018; 5 (5): 98-109

    View details for DOI 10.17157/mat.5.5.637