Orange Alert

Syracuse Humanities Center Presents Medical Anthropologist Joseph Alter April 16-17

Pitt professor known for groundbreaking study of Nature Cure in contemporary India

April 3, 2015, by Rob Enslin

The interrelationship of ideology, ecology, and self-healing will be the focus of a two-day program, presented by the Spring Symposia series in the Syracuse University Humanities Center.

HC Dissertation Fellow Daniel Cheifer will host medical anthropologist Joseph Alter in a public lecture on Thursday, April 16, at 7:30 p.m. in room 214 of Slocum Hall. The following day, they will participate in an HC Mini-Seminar at 9 a.m. in room 304 of the Tolley Humanities Building.

Both events are free and open to the public; however, registration is required for the HC Mini-Seminar. For more information or to RSVP, contact the Humanities Center at 315-443-7192 or

Alter’s visit is co-sponsored by the Department of Religion in the College of Arts and Sciences (A&S) and the South Asia Center in the Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs.

“Much of Alter’s work focuses on ideology, religion, and the body,” says Gerald Greenberg, a senior associate dean in A&S and interim director of the Humanities Center. “At Syracuse, he will discuss how asana [yoga posture] and pranayama [breath control] are understood in context of Nature Cure in modern India. Special emphasis will be placed on purification and embodied perfection and the role they play in achieving proper health and transcendent consciousness.”    

Alter is based at the University of Pittsburgh, where he serves as professor of anthropology, a research professor of international studies, and the academic director of the Pitt in the Himalayas program. His current research projects involve the relationship among Nature Cure, ecology, and worldview in contemporary India; and the impact of biosemiotics on ecologically grounded social theory.

The author of more than a half-dozen books (including a forthcoming one on Nature Cure and bio-ecology in India), Alter earned a Ph.D. in social and cultural anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley. 
Nature Cure refers to various methods of self-healing, including fasting, dieting, rest, and hydrotherapy.

Cheifer is a Ph.D. candidate in Syracuse’s religion department. His research spans South Asian religion and philosophy, globalization, multiculturalism, ethnography, and Sanskrit language and literature. He earned an M.A. in religion from Columbia University.

“HC Fellows bring their research into conversation with students and faculty from across campus, while engaging with colleagues and experts from around the country,” Greenberg adds. “The series also sets the stage for Syracuse Symposium, which the Humanities Center presents every fall for the College of Arts and Sciences.” 

Media Contact

Ron Enslin