Dr. Linda Barnes is a medical anthropologist and a scholar in the study of world religions. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), and in the Division of Religious and Theological Studies in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Her research and teaching interests address the intersections of culture, religion and spirituality, and complementary and alternative therapies. She is committed to including an understanding of the healing practices of culturally complex patient populations in the training of clinicians, and to helping clinicians to better understand how religious worldviews play a part in patient and family understandings of illness and healing.
Dr. Barnes received her BA from Smith College, following which she earned her Masters in Theological Studies at Harvard Divinity School, and her M.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard University in Comparative Religion and the allied field of Medical Anthropology. As an historian and medical anthropologist, her own research expertise is in the cultural and social history of Western responses to Chinese healing traditions, in relation to histories of race, medicine, and religion.
Since 1999, Dr. Barnes has been a member of the faculty of Boston University School of Medicine, where she founded and directs an urban ethnographic program—the Boston Healing Landscape Project (BHLP), a program for the study of religions, medicines, and healing—funded three times by the Ford Foundation between 2000 and 2008. The BHLP’s research focuses on forms of complementary and alternative medicine common among the culturally complex patient communities served by the medical school’s teaching hospital Boston Medical Center (BMC).
Prior to coming to BUSM, she taught courses on religiously grounded healing traditions at Harvard University, Harvard Divinity School, Brown University, and Northeastern University, and has received multiple teaching awards for her work with students. She now teaches and mentors medical students, residents, fellows, and faculty at BUSM. Beginning in the fall of 2009, her group launched a new Masters Program in Medical Anthropology and Cross-Cultural Practice through the Division of Graduate Medical Sciences at BUSM.
For ten years, Dr. Barnes served as the consultant to faculty-development workshops, sponsored by the American Academy of Religion (AAR) and funded by the Lilly Endowment, the Luce Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities, for faculty in the study of religion. She also served as the Regional Director of the New England/Maritimes Region of the American Academy of Religion from 2002-2008, and founded and co-chairs the "Religions, Medicines, and Healing Group" program unit of the AAR.
Dr. Barnes has published her ethnographic work in leading medical anthropology journals such as Culture, Medicine & Psychiatry, Medical Anthropology, Medical Anthropology Quarterly, and Social, Science and Medicine.
Her books include Religion and Healing in America (co-edited with Susan S. Sered, Oxford 2005); and Teaching Religion and Healing (co-edited with Ines Talamantez, Oxford 2006). Her historical scholarship appears in her book Needles, Herbs, Gods, and Ghosts: China, Healing, and the West to 1848 (Harvard University Press, 2005). She is currently writing a book on the social history of Chinese medicine and healing traditions in the United States, beginning in 1849 and continuing up through the present, and building an archive of related source materials.
Her expertise in the field of Chinese medicine in the U.S. has resulted in her being invited to speak to local, national, and international audiences. She has served as an expert reviewer for the National Institutes of Health’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine.
Dr. Barnes lives with her husband, nephew, two parrots, cat, and dog in Cambridge, Massachusetts.