Jessica Ham

Assistant Professor of Anthropology

Jessica Ham is an anthropologist addressing the relationship between environments and bodies.

Born and raised in rural Missouri, she began her career in higher education with degrees in English and anthropology from the University of Missouri-Columbia (2003).  Following work advocating for quality health care access, she earned an MA in social anthropology from the University of Sussex in the UK (2007).  She spent the next two years working with the local food systems movement in post-Katrina New Orleans. In 2009 Ham pursued a PhD in anthropology at the University of Georgia and in 2016 she successfully defended her dissertation, an empirical investigation of the causes and consequences of food insecurity in Ghana. Between 2016 and 2018 she was a Post-Doctoral Research Associate with the Global Health Program at Princeton University.  In 2018 she joined the faculty of Oxford College.

Students in Ham’s courses engage with and fuse critical social theory and diverse methodologies to develop an integrative analytical skillset.  She guides students in assessing how different kinds of evidence are necessary to illuminate the intersecting social, political and biological realities that structure the human experience. As a professor invested in shaping ideas and actions that bring equitable and sustained change to the world, she forefronts the challenges of the 21st century as a means to explore bio-cultural diversity in past and present.  This gently nudges students into questioning what they consider to be “normal” and why as they contemplate their roles as architects of and actors in the future.  Whether an anthropology major or anthropologically curious, students walk away from her classroom with critical thinking skills and research techniques that are applicable to their engaged citizenship and professional lives. 

An active member of the American Anthropological Association and the Society for Applied Anthropology, Ham is a routine participant in national conferences and integrated into a wide range of scholarly and activist networks.


BA| University of Missouri| 2003

MA| University of Sussex| 2008

PhD| University of Georgia| 2016

Courses Taught

Introduction to Anthropology

Foundations in Global Health

Nutritional Anthropology


Charles Hudson Teaching Award (UGA Dept. of Anthropology, 2016)

Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award (UGA Graduate School, 2016)


2017. Cooking to be Modern but Eating to be Health: The Role of Dawa-Dawa in Contemporary Ghanaian Foodways.   Food, Culture and Society 20: 237-256.


Hard Porridge, Slippery Soup: What Texture Relays about Ghanaian Dietary Desires. Living Food: Foodways, Heritage, Health, and the Environment. Foundation France-Japon de l’EHHESS, Feb. 22-23 2018, Paris, France

Cooking to be Modern but Eating to be Healthy: The Role of Dawa Dawa in Contemporary Ghanaian Foodways, Paper for the 116th Annual American Anthropological Association Meeting (AAA), Nov. 29-Dec. 3rd  2017, Washington D.C.

Humanity before Money: Collective Work and Collective Health in Upper West Ghana, Paper for the 77th Annual Society for Applied Anthropology Meeting (SfAA), March 28-April 1 2017, Santa Fe.

Weight Loss and Worry Sickness: How a Culture Bound Syndrome Offers Deeper Contemplation of the Relationship between Food Insecurity and Mental Health, Paper for the Society for Psychological Anthropology Meeting, March 7-9 2017, New Orleans.

Talking through Worries in Upper West Ghana: Exploring Men’s Resilience to Distress in a Context of Climate Change. Paper for the 115th AAA meeting, November 16-20, 2016, Minneapolis.

“Everyday it’s Tuo Zaafi”: Sacrificing Food for the Future in Upper West Ghana, Paper for the 114th AAA Meeting, November 18-22, 2015, Denver.

Trying to be Modern: Changing the Way Food is Made in Upper West Ghana, Paper for the 75th Annual SfAA Meeting, March 24-28, 2015, Pittsburgh.

Worried Sick: Investigating the Linkages between Food Insecurity and Mental Health in the Ghanaian Savanna, Paper for the Association of Social Anthropologists, 2013, Edinburgh, U.K.