Contact Information:
121 South Main Street,
2nd Floor
Providence, RI 02912-G
Box G-S121-2
(401) 863-6790

Patricia Symonds, Ph.D. Brown 1991

Edit My Page

Title: Visiting Scholar
Department: Anthropology

+1 401 863 3251, +1 401 863 1295

Download Patricia Symonds's Curriculum Vitae in PDF Format

Overview | Research | Grants/Awards | Teaching | Publications

Medical anthropology, HIV/AIDS, gender and society, ethnicity, refugee issues, development, culture change, political economy; Southeast Asia.


Patricia V. Symonds joined Brown in 1992 as a Visiting Professor of Anthropology. She is now Adjunct Associate Professor with an areal interest in Southeast Asia and a specialty in minority hill dwellers in Thailand. Her research with the Hmong refugee population in the United States led to further work with that population in the far north of Thailand and Laos. Symonds is a medical anthropologist and she has conducted research on HIV/AIDS in Thailand to discover how culture, political economy, and cosmology can effect populations exposed to this epidemic.

A Brown alumna (A.B., 1979: Ph.D., 1991), Symonds has taught in the Anthropology Department since 1992. She continues research both on the Hmong diaspora to the United States and the Hmong population in Thailand. Issues of Globalization and subsequent changes in life style are of particular interest. Her book Calling in the Soul: Gender and the Cycle of Life in a Hmong Village was a finalist for the Benda Prize in 2005.

Research Description

My research focuses on the intersection between political economy, culture, and medicine. My field research began in the United States in health clinics providing for minorities and refugees. There I learned of the problems and concerns of refugee women whose reproductive rights were changing as the results of migration and social change. Further research was conducted with highlanders in the north of Thailand, the Hmong. Reproduction, gender, cosmology and health-seeking behaviour were my main interests, and this led to investigating inequality for highlanders in the majority Thai society and in the patrilineal Hmong system. Further research was conducted in Thailand on Hmong views of migration from rural to urban centers because of Thai efforts to incorporate minorities into the majority system. I was interested how these changes were affecting Hmong cultural dynamics. Further research was conducted on Hmong sexuality and how they and other highlanders could be encouraged to practice prevention in light of the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the country.

My new project on Hmong will take place in the U.S., where some 200,000 Hmong now live. I plan to investigate the changes that have taken place in Hmong society by investigating how empowerment of women has changed family life and reproductive behaviour.


Nominated for Hazeltine Award for excellence in teaching

Nominated for Karen T. Romer Award for excellence in teaching

Nominated for Karen T. Romer Award for excellence in teaching

Consultant and evaluator for film on Hmong Refugee Populations after Twenty Years in the United States, Rhode Island Council for Humanities

Ethnographic consultant to grant from NIMH, "Context for Microbicide Acceptability" (P.I. Dr. Katherine Morrow, Miriam Hospital)

Invitation and funding to present research paper at the First International Workshop on the Hmong/Miao in Asia at the Institute de Recherche sur le Sud-Est Asiatique (IRSEA-CNRS), Aix-en-Provence, France; funded by European Science Foundation

Foreign Language and Area Studies (FLAS) grant, Center for Southeast Asia Studies, University of Michigan

Faculty travel grant for research in Thailand, Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University

Research grant, principle investigator,Thailand Australia Northern AIDS Prevention and Care(NAPAC)Program; for Hmong Community HIV/AIDS education project

Research grant, investigator, American Foundation for AIDS Research; for "HIV/AIDS Knowledge Among Southeast Asian Hill Tribes"

Incentive Grant awarded to develop and teach a special themes and topic course, entitled The Anthropology of Refugees (Brown University)

Grant for use of Interpreter; Providence Ambulatory Heath Care Foundation

Dissertation fellowship, Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University

Grant from Health and Human Services, Office of Refugee Settlement, participant in Ethnic Adolescent Family Life Project


The American Anthropological Association

South East Asian Society

Society for American Anthropology

Funded Research

Watson Institute, Brown University, for dissertation research

FLAS (Foreign Language and Area Studies) language training grant for Hmong language at Southeast Asian Summer Studies Institute

American Foundation for AIDs Research (AmfAR), conducted in the north of Thailand with Hmong, Lisu, and Akha

Funding from the Thai-Australian governments for education and prevention of HIV/AIDS among the Hmong in Thailand

Multiple Undergraduate Teaching and Research Awards (UTRAs)

Teaching Experience

AN102/BC168/7 "AIDS in International Perspective"
Communities around the world have been affected in different ways by the HIV-AIDS pandemic. This course is an investigation into the ways culture and political economy structure risk of HIV infection and understandings of and responses to HIV/AIDS in the world. Throughout the course we will pay particular attention to gendered power relations and other factors that contribute to women's vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. First, we will concentrate on a brief overview of bio/medical understandings of the virus, transmission, treatment, and epiedemiology. Our focus will then turn to the social dimensions of the pandemic. We will consider issues such as risk, blame, sexuality, knowledge vs. behavior, prevention and the role of the social sciences. We will explore these issues in different countries, including the US, Haiti, Thailand and those in Africa.

AN105 "People and Cultures of South East Asia" This course is introduction to the anthropoloical studey of Southeast Asia.
Emphasis is placed on understanding the diversity of cultures and societies through both space and time. From geographical and historical perspectives, we examine the development of state systems and their relationships with "tribal" societies on their peripheries. The influence of Indian, Chinese and Islamic civilizations on traditional polities and of European nation states is explored in Part I. In Part II we consider ethnographic case studies from both mainland and insular South East Asia. In Part III we focus in greater detail on two topics in the ethnography of Thailand: gender roles and the tribal world. Both ethnographic sections emphasize majority/minority relations and the role of religion in the formulation of social identities from the individual to the national level.

Selected Publications

  • 2004b. "Following Cutural Pathways for the Prevention of HIV/AIDS:Notes from the Field." In Hmong/Miao in Asia, Tapp et al. Chiang Mai, Silkworm Books.(2004)
  • 2004a, Calling in the Soul:Gender and the Cycle of Life in a Hmong Village. Seattle: University of Washingtom Press.(2004)
  • 2000, "Suivre les chemins culturales dans le cadre de la prevention du VIH/Sida chez Hmong de Thailande." In Blanc et al 367-94.(2000)
  • 1998 With Brooke Schoepf HIV/AIDS: The Global Pandemic, In Etkin: 189-209.(1998)
  • 1997b "The Political Economy and Cultural Logic of HIV/AIDS among the Hmong in Northern Thailand." In The Political Economy of AIDS, Merrill Singer. 205-226.(1997)
  • 1997a "Blessing in a White Hmong commuity in Northern Thailand: Invocation and Sacrifice." In Merit and Blessing in Manland Southeast Asia in Comparative Perspective. Kammerer and Tannenbaum eds. Monograph 45. Yale Southeast Asia Studies. 98-115.(1997)