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Dr Caroline Ackley

Dr Caroline Ackley

Dr Caroline Ackley (PhD, MA, BA)

Research Fellow in Medical Anthropology
T: +44 (0)1273 877817
Location: Ground Floor, BSMS Medical Research Building, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9PX

Area of expertise: Women’s health and community health with a focus on sexual and reproductive health, infectious disease, and neglected tropical diseases in the Greater Horn of Africa

Research areas: Utilising participatory and creative methods to work across and through power differentials to facilitate dialogue involving unexpected health stakeholders. Anthropology of the body, ethics and morality, the anthropology of Islam and postcolonial theory to better understand individual and community experiences of health.



Dr Caroline Ackley holds a PhD in Medical Anthropology from UCL and has worked in the Greater Horn of Africa since 2009. Her PhD examined Somaliland women's life course as an entanglement of moralities, time, and selves. It ethnographically explored the relationships women have with their bodies, other women in the community, the divine, and their husbands.  

Caroline was based in Harar, Ethiopia from 2017-2019 as a Research Fellow in Anthropology with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.  During this time she was the lead social scientist for the Hararghe Health Research Partnership, and led the social science component of 3 funded research studies (1) Child Health and Mortality Prevention Surveillance CHAMPS, (2) Unlocking the silence on stillbirth, and (3) Antimicrobial resistance. 

In 2019 she co-led a qualitative methods training and research symposium titled ‘Anthropological Approaches to Understanding Child and Maternal Mortality, and Recommendations for Improving Health Outcomes in Ethiopia’ thanks to the UCL Global Engagement Fund. Participants included early career researchers and scholars from Ethiopia whose research has been published on the UCL Medical Anthropology Blog.

Caroline is currently implementing a photo-voice and mural painting project through the LSHTM Public Engagement Small Grants Scheme. The project engages lead mothers in the Women’s Development Army and the Women and Social Affairs Office in Kersa District, Ethiopia. It aims to explore positive aspects of child health, and to shift the narrative from one that focuses only on negative health behaviours and outcomes to include positive behaviours and practices that support healthy children.


Caroline is currently part of a social science study aimed at exploring severe stigmatising skin diseases; namely podoconiosis, mycetoma, and scabies in Sudan, Ethiopia and Rwanda. The study focuses on individual and community experiences of the diseases, as well as how all three diseases have been conceptualised in national and international policy.

Her recent work has combined medical anthropology and material culture looking at experiences of female genital cutting in Somaliland and minimally invasive tissue sampling in Ethiopia. She continues to be interested in women's life course development, sexual and reproductive health, gender-based violence and community health.  



Caroline has taught and supervised undergraduate and master’s students in Medical Anthropology at UCL. She has also taught and supervised Global Public Health and Public Health Policy MSc students at LSHTM. She is currently supporting Global Health and Medical Anthropology PhD students at BSMS.

Selected publications

Roelen, Keetie, Ackley, Caroline, Boyce, Paul, Farina, Nicolas and Ripoll, Santiago (2020) COVID-19 in LMICs: the need to place stigma front and centre to its response. European Journal of Development Research. ISSN 0957-8811. 

John Blevins, Elizabeth O’Mara Sage, Ahoua Kone, Maria Maixenchs, Pratima L Raghunathan, Rui A Guilaze, Saquina Cossa, Zerihun Girma, Yosef Zegeye, Caroline Ackley, Faruqe Hussain, Saiful Islam, Nellie Myburgh, Noni Ngwenya, Shabir A Madhi, Peter Otieno, Kennedy Ochola, Khátia Munguambe, Robert F Breiman, “Using Participatory Workshops to Assess Alignment or Tension in the Community for Minimally Invasive Tissue Sampling Prior to Start of Child Mortality Surveillance: Lessons From 5 Sites Across the CHAMPS Network,” Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 69, Issue Supplement_4, 15 October 2019, Pages S280–S290, 

Elizabeth O’Mara Sage, Khátia R Munguambe, John Blevins, Rui Guilaze, Baindu Kosia, Maria Maixenchs, Quique Bassat, Inácio Mandomando, Reinhard Kaiser, Ahoua Kone, Amara Jambai, Nellie D Myburgh, Noni Ngwenya, Shabir A Madhi, Ketema Degefa, Caroline Ackley, Robert F Breiman, Pratima L Raghunathan, “Investigating the Feasibility of Child Mortality Surveillance With Postmortem Tissue Sampling: Generating Constructs and Variables to Strengthen Validity and Reliability in Qualitative Research,” Clinical Infectious Diseases, Volume 69, Issue Supplement_4, 15 October 2019, Pages S291–S301,

Ackley, Caroline. “The Life Course of Labia” in Medical Materialities: Toward a Material Culture of Medical Anthropology. Edited by Aaron Parkhurst and Timothy Carroll. Routledge. 2019.

Ackley, Caroline. "Muslim Women in Postcolonial Kenya: Leadership, Representation, and Social Change." Canadian Journal of African Studies / Revue Canadienne Des études Africaines, 2015, 1-3.

Ackley, C. (2015). “Reflections from the field: Entering the women’s world,” ANTHROPOLITAN a UCL Journal of Anthropology, Issue No. 11, 11-12.

Abdulkadir, Rahma, and Caroline Ackley. "The Role of Shari'a-Based Restorative Justice in the Transition from Armed Conflict to Peacebuilding: Do Somalis Hold the View That the Restorative Justice Aspects within Qisas Offer a Solution?" Northeast African Studies 14, no. 2 2014, 111-32.