People » Joanna Mishtal

Dr. Mishtal is an associate professor who specializes in cultural medical anthropology focusing on reproductive rights and policies in Poland, Ireland and the European Union. She received her Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from the University of Colorado at Boulder in 2006, and she was the recipient of the Charlotte Ellertson Postdoctoral Fellowship at Columbia University, Mailman School of Public Health, from 2006 to 2008. Her theoretical and research interests include gender and politics, democratization, political economy, global women’s health, feminism and women’s movements. Her dissertation and postdoctoral research explored the contentious nature of reproductive politics and democratization that emerged since the fall of state socialism in 1989 in Poland. Her new project, launched in 2009, builds on her interest in international politics of gender and health, and examines reproductive health policies from the perspectives of healthcare providers in Ireland. This project also analyzes the power dynamics between the supranational governance of the EU and the Vatican, and the sovereignty of the member nations in the realm of policies that affect access to reproductive and sexual healthcare. Her work has been supported by the Fulbright Scholarship, the American Council of Learned Societies, the Devaney Fellowship, the Ellertson Postdoctoral Fellowship, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation.

She joined the UCF faculty in 2008 and teaches cultural, medical, and applied/public anthropology courses. She directs research of students enrolled in the Masters Program, the School of Medicine, and the Honors in the Major program. In 2010, she co-developed the Medical Anthropology Minor for students from other social sciences to promote interdisciplinarity and interest in medical anthropology as well as global and community health.

In her spare time, you might find her skiing in Colorado or enjoying Florida beaches.


American Anthropological Association

Society for Medical Anthropology

American Ethnological Society

Association for Political and Legal Anthropology

Association for Feminist Anthropology

Council on Anthropology and Reproduction

Society for the Anthropology of Europe

Post-Communist Cultural Studies Interest Group

Interest Group for the Anthropology of Public Policy

Society for Applied Anthropology

Columbia Population Research Center, Associate

European Association of Social Anthropologists


Gender and Politics; Reproductive Health, Rights and Policies; Fertility Decline; Feminism and Women’s Movements; Political Economy; Democratization; Gender and Health in the European Union; Bioethics and Medicine; Europe (Poland, The Republic of Ireland, the European Union)

Current Research, 2009 – present:

After carrying out research on reproductive rights and policies in Poland 2000-2007, Dr. Mishtal decided to launch a new project in Ireland and at the EU with preliminary studies in summers of 2009 and 2010. After her Polish research, Ireland made sense as a parallel site with severe reproductive rights restrictions and a prominent role of the Catholic church, but different political and religious histories and trajectories. The new project is tentatively titled, “Bioethics in Ireland and in the European Union: Supranational Governance, State Sovereignty, and the Politics of Reproduction.” Joanna’s preliminary findings from research with doctors in the Irish medical community show that the Catholic governance of reproductive bioethics is being contested by increasing forms of ambivalence toward the church and a growing secularizing trend within the community of gynecologists and ob/gyns. But the prevalent politics of silence create reluctance among most healthcare providers and politicians to engage in an open discourse about reproductive healthcare needs of Irish women. In 2014, she will be conducting a new research study in Warsaw, funded by IREX, about policy disputes and advocacy efforts around the regulation of assisted reproductive technologies in Poland.

Doctoral and Postdoctoral Research, 2000-2002 and 2007:

Dr. Mishtal conducted 21 months of fieldwork which explored the politics of reproductive health and rights in postsocialist Poland, and in light of EU expansion. The ethnography based on this research, titled “Contradictions of Democratization: Reproductive Rights and the Politics of Morality in Poland,” is funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and currently underway.

Please visit the News section for Dr. Mishtal to find the latest information on her accomplishments.

October 2013:

Dr. Mishtal was awarded a book contract with Ohio University Press to publish her ethnography titled “Contradictions of Democratization: Reproductive Rights and the Politics of Morality in Poland.”

October 2011:

In 2011 Dr. Mishtal was awarded the Wenner-Gren Foundation Hunt Fellowship ($20,000) to complete the book manuscript based on her research in Poland titled, “Contradictions of Democratization: Reproductive Rights and the Politics of Morality in Poland.” This is a historical, theoretical, and ethnographic study of the intersections of politics, gender, and religion based on 21 months of fieldwork in Krakow, Gdansk, and Warsaw, 2000-2007. Her book explores the postsocialist democratization process and the contentiousness of reproductive politics that emerged since the 1989 fall of state socialism.

April 2009:

Congratulations to Dr. Joanna Mishtal on receiving a $7,500 grant for her research project entitled, “Understanding Declining Fertility in Poland: Integrating Demographic and Anthropological Methodologies”

Anthropologist Wins Prestigious Book Award

Associate professor of anthropology, Joanna Mishtal, Ph.D., has won an award for her book, The Politics of Morality: The Church, the State and Reproductive Rights in Postsocialist Poland. Mishtal’s book was s... Read more

Healthcare Accessibility Research

Mackenzie Hager’s desire to help has driven her to be a voice for those in need. Anticipating a spring 2018 graduation, she is a first-year master’s student studying cultural and medical anthropology. Her j... Read more

Anthropology Student’s Winning Photograph

University of Central Florida’s Department of Anthropology graduate student Russell Manzano’s photo was just selected by the American Anthropological Association (AAA) to be featured in the organization’s... Read more

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