Robin Oakley

Associate Professor

Mary Isa Harnish and her Grandson Going Fishing, Sober Island, NS 1955

Phone: 902-494-6807
Mailing Address: 
Room 3107, McCain Building, 6135 University Avenue
PO Box 15000, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3H 4R2
Research Topics:
  • Critical health studies
  • Policy
  • Decolonizing studies and methodologies
  • Food and meaning
  • Science and Technology
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Oral history and narrative

Research interests

Robin Oakley is an anthropologist interested in the relationship between economic constraints and cultural values in relation to health and policy. Dr. Oakley is exploring the intersections of science, food, and the role of narrative in health, illness and healing in South India. She worked with Indian colleagues on Shastri-Indo Canadian Institute exchanges, MITACS Global Link, the Indian Ministry of Education and SSHRC. Cathy Fournier (Research Fellow, Wilson Centre, U. Toronto/University Health Network/ Dal. IDPhD Candidate/RMT) and Oakley have recently co-authored a forthcoming chapter: "Conversions and Erasures: Colonial Ontologies in Canadian and International Traditional, Complementary and Alternative Medicine Integration Policies". In Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Knowledge Production and Social Transformation Eds. Brosnan, C. Vuolanto, P. and A. Brodin-Dannell. Palgrave MacMillian. In her doctoral work, she analyzed aging and caregiving strategies in Namaqualand, South Africa, among a community that had communal land tenure until the late 1990s. She is currently exploring the parallels of the reserves in Namaqaland that pre-dated the Canadian reserve system by examining the migration routes of a Mi'kmaq family who were forced off one of the reserves recognized by Joseph Howe in St Margaret’s Bay, Nova Scotia in the 1800s. Her long-standing interest in race and ethnicity as perpetuated in the resilient Victorian British imagination and the debilitating impacts on people’s sense of “wellness” that all too often go unresolved continues to preoccupy her perspective in Canada, India and South Africa. Dr. Oakley has written book reviews for American Ethnologist, Itinerario: European Expansion and Migration (Cambridge), Critique of Anthropology, the Asian Journal of Social Science and Journal for the Society of the Anthropology of Europe.

Dr. Oakley has taught: Aging Cross Culturally (Fully Online Class), Culture and Society, People and Culture, the Honors Seminar, Health and Culture, Race, Ethnicity and Nationalism, Food and Culture, Indian Society and Special Topics: South African Society and Tropical Health and Imperial Medicine.

Selected publications

  • 2013. Guest Co-Editor Annuaire Roumain d’Anthropologie. Special issue: Social Exclusion in India: Critical  Ethnographic Discourse from the Margins. Bucharest.
  • 2010. "Empowering Knowledge" and "Practices of Namaqualand Elders". In P. Stephenson and J. Graham (Eds.) Anthropology and Aging: Contesting the Paradigm of Loss. Toronto, University of Toronto Press.
  • 2007. Oakley, Robin and Anne Sigfrid Grøsneth. (Eds.) Ethnographic Humanism: Migrant Experiences in the Quest for Well-Being. Special Issue of Anthropology in Action, 14(1 & 2):175 pages.
  • 2006. “Collective rural identity in Steinkopf, a communal coloured reserve, ca. 1926-1996”. Journal of Southern African Studies, 32, No. 3: 489-503.
  • R. Oakley and V.I.S. Jayapalan. 2005. “Beast of Burden (Chekku Madu): The Power of the Wandering Poet Among the Tamil Diaspora”. Journal of Poetry Therapy, 18(1): 17-33.
  • 1998. "Local Effects of New Social Welfare Policy on Ageing in South Africa." Southern African Journal of Gerontology, 7(1):15-20. [PDF - 677 kB]