Andrea M. López

Assistant Professor

Dr. Andrea M. Lopez is an Assistant Professor with expertise in medical anthropology, urban anthropology, the anthropology of drug use, health inequities, the U.S. welfare state, and subjectivity and social suffering in U.S. urban contexts. She has over a decade of experience working with unstably housed and homeless people who use drugs, both as a researcher and in a harm reduction direct service capacity. 

Dr. Lopez has been a qualitative investigator on over a dozen interdisciplinary, mixed methods studies of health inequities among structurally vulnerable populations, largely funded by the National Institutes of Health. Between 2010 and 2016, she worked as a Research Medical Anthropologist in the Behavioral and Urban Health Program at RTI International’s San Francisco Regional office and between 2010 and 2014, she worked as a qualitative researcher in the HIV/AIDS Division at University of California, San Francisco’s School of Medicine. In this work, she collaborated with clinicians, epidemiologists, and social scientists from other disciplines on multiple interdisciplinary, mixed methods studies in both San Francisco and Oakland, California examining the following: the role of the built environment on health and mental health; illness experiences of HIV/AIDS patients in a large urban safety-net clinic; the management of addiction, trauma, and violence from the perspectives of the extreme poor; the impact of the criminal justice system and welfare institutions on the reproduction of adversity; and the social and structural contexts of addiction, mental illness, and violence.

Her ethnographic research in San Francisco, California examines the contemporary conditions of “hypermarginality”—that is, the co-occurring and concentrated experiences of extreme poverty, complex trauma, addiction, and chronic illness in certain socio-spatial and institutional contexts. In her dissertation “The Paradoxes of Poverty: Hypermarginality and the Care Assemblage in the ‘Compassionate’ City,” conducted with unstably housed women who live in single room occupancy hotels, she examines how women experience life in a biopolitical gray area between extreme social exclusion and particular forms of inclusion through “care.” She considers the health policy aspects of how care is configured for a population whose needs have become completely intertwined along the axes of addiction, mental health, and chronic disease. Further, she examines subjectivity and expressions of personhood as women navigate intersecting logics of salvation and punishment within the institutions (housing, social service, and medical care) meant to alleviate their suffering. This research was funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

In late 2014, Dr. Lopez was awarded a grant by the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities to conduct a study with unstably housed and homeless women who have criminal justice involvement in Oakland, California. This study used life history and auto-ethnography photographic methods to understand women’s experiences of cumulative adversity within the context of unmet health and mental health care needs, exposure to violence, and criminal justice involvement.

Dr. Lopez was a five-year fellow at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico (2008-2012) where she participated in an intensive research and training program focused on interdisciplinary and cross-methodological health disparities research. She also has a long history of working in a direct service capacity with community-based organizations serving unstably housed people who use drugs, including the San Francisco Needle Exchange, an outreach program run by the Women’s Community Clinic serving women who reside in single resident occupancy hotels in San Francisco’s Mission District, and as a harm reduction advocate in an outpatient drug treatment program.

For more information on previous research projects, visit


Areas of Interest:
  • Medical anthropology, urban anthropology, drug use, health policy, anthropology of violence, anthropology of space, health inequities, mixed methods/interdisciplinary research, subjectivity and social suffering, critical phenomenology
Personal Website:
  • BA Anthropology - San Francisco State University (2003)
  • MA Anthropology - University of New Mexico (2007)
  • PhD Anthropology - University of New Mexico (2014)
Course Name Course Title Semester Syllabus
ANTH360 Method and Theory in Sociocultural Anthropology Spring 2017 Syllabus
ANTH412 Hypermarginality and Health Inequity Fall 2017 Syllabus
ANTH210 Introduction to Medical Anthropology and Global Health Fall 2017 Syllabus
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  • Andrea M. López
0123C Woods Hall
Department of Anthropology
Phone: (301) 405-5462