Skip to main content

Associate Professor

Email: mrfish(@)


Fax: 919-962-1613

Office: 305A Alumni Bldg.

Department of Anthropology
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
301 Alumni Bldg
CB #3115
Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3115


Ph.D. Princeton 1997

A.B. Vassar College 1990

Research & Activities:

Since 1993, I have undertaken ethnographic research on health and gender in Russia as an arena for understanding the broader social and political changes in that country since the end of state socialism. Most specifically, my work has examined Russia’s health care reforms, debates and policies on reproduction and demography, sex education,  and the daily struggles of women and men to secure well-being as privatization expands in official and unofficial ways. My book,Women’s Health in Post-Soviet Russia: The Politics of Intervention (Indiana UP 2005) contributes to feminist and medical anthropological scholarship linking reproductive politics with transformations of the state and citizenship. My approach brings into view a range of actors and levels of analysis, from international development consultants to state policy makers, demographic experts, clinic- based professionals, community activists, and laypersons, as well as the interactions between them.

A recent article in Slavic Review examines a recent policy established by the Putin administration to encourage Russian women to bear second and third children– the so-called “maternity capital.” The study asks how this pronatalist program, additional pronatalist proposals, and critiques of maternity capital shape the horizon of imaginative possibilities in Russia regarding state power and gendered citizenship.

Another theme I have explored recently involves the ways cultural notions of justice in post-Soviet Russia are linked with historically-rooted constructions of social difference. In a 2009 article published in American Ethnologist, I examine how Mikhail Bulgakov’s story, Heart of a Dog, has become a template for popular narratives of Soviet history and contemporary notions of post-Soviet justice. Specifically, Bulgakov’s story has been used to articulate visions that a renewal of middle-class privilege should be central to moral restitution in the aftermath of the Soviet Union.  A recently published volume,Dilemmas of Diversity After the Cold War: Analyses of ‘Cultural Difference’ by U.S. and Russia-Based Scholars, co-edited with Elena Trubina (Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars), examines how notions of “diversity” and practices of managing people and practices considered outside the social and moral mainstream are conceptually linked with both Soviet nationality politics and the post-Soviet tensions of market economics.

In addition to my work in Russia, I am currently developing new research on the moral economies of medicine and health in the U.S. My interests focus on the work of American cultural notions of charity, justice, empathy, responsibility, entitlement, and scientific authority in socializing health professional students into the political-economy of the US health care system.

Selected Publications:

2014 Rivkin-Fish, Michele and Cassandra Hartblay. “Global LGBT Activism and the Resurgence of Cold War Hostilities: A Call for Examining Russian Queer Experience and Strategies” Brown Journal of World Affairs 21(1): 95-101.

2014 “Medical Anthropology.” In Oxford Bibliographies in Anthropology. Ed. John Jackson. New York: Oxford University Press.

2013 “Conceptualizing Feminist Strategies for Russian Reproductive Politics: Abortion, Surrogate Motherhood, and Family Support After Socialism” SIGNS, 38(3):569-593.

2011 “Learning the Moral Economy of Commodified Health Care: Community Education, Failed Consumers, and the Making of Ethical Clinician-Citizens” Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, 35(2), special issue on Clinical Subjectivation: Anthropologies of Contemporary Biomedical Training, pp. 183-208.

2010 “Pronatalism, Gender Politics, and the Renewal of Family Support in Russia: Towards a Feminist Anthropology of ‘Maternity Capital’” Slavic Review 69(3).

2010 Dilemmas of Diversity After the Cold War: Analyses of ‘Cultural Difference’ by U.S. and Russia-Based Scholars, co-edited with Elena Trubina (Kennan Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars).

2009 “Tracing Landscapes of the Past in Class Subjectivity: Practices of Memory and Distinction in Marketizing Russia”American Ethnologist 36(1): 79-95.

2005 Women’s Health in Post-Soviet Russia: The Politics of Intervention (Indiana University Press).

*Awarded the 2006 Basker Prize for Outstanding Work in Gender and Health, by the Society for Medical Anthropology, and the 2006 Heldt Prize for Best Book in Women’s Studies by the Association of Women in Slavic Studies, of the American Association for the Advancement of Slavic Studies.

2004 ” ‘Change Yourself and the Whole World Will Become Kinder’: Russian Activists for Reproductive Health and the Limits of Claims Making for Women” Medical Anthropology Quarterly 18(3): 281-304.

*Awarded the 2005 Polgar Paper Prize by the Society for Medical Anthropology.

2003 “Anthropology, Demography, and the Search for a Critical Analysis of Fertility: Insights from Russia” American Anthropologist 105(2):289-301.

2000 “Health Development Meets the End of State Socialism: Visions of Democratization, Women’s Health, and Social Well-Being for Contemporary Russia” Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 24: 77-100.

1999 “Sexuality Education in Russia: Defining Pleasure and Danger for a Fledgling Democratic Society” Social Science and Medicine 49(6): 801-814.

Curriculum Vitae