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Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis
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Ellen Amster

Jason A. Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine  
Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine
Associate Professor, Department of History
Adjunct Faculty Member, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural
Neurosciences, DeGroote School of Medicine
Adjunct Professor, Department of Anthropology and Department of Health Research Methods, Evidence, and Impact
Member, Centre for Health Economics and Policy Analysis

T: (905) 525-9140 ext 20006

McMaster University
Chester New Hall 616 and HSC 3H3
1280 Main Street West,
Hamilton, Ontario 
L8S 4M4


Ellen Amster is the Jason A. Hannah Chair in the History of Medicine at McMaster University and an Associate Professor in McMaster’s Department of Health Evidence and Impact and the Department of History, specializing in Islamic and French medicines. She is also a member of CHEPA. A Fulbright scholar and a Chateaubriand scholar of the government of France, she holds a PhD and a Masters’ degree in history from the University of Pennsylvania and a BA in political science from the University of Chicago. Before coming to McMaster she was an Associate Professor in history at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She has research and field expertise as an Islamicist and an Arabist, and has served as an Arabic-English-French translator for ORBIS, an international ocular surgery non-governmental organization (NGO) during its mission in Morocco.  She uses qualitative and mixed-methods to study the social aspects of health policy; barriers to care; the cultural experience of illness; and social attitudes to birth, midwifery, sexuality, violence against women and infant health in Morocco.


  • Middle East studies and Islam
  • History of biomedicine in global context
  • Maternal and infant health in Morocco
  • Gender violence in the Middle East and North Africa
  • Consequences of interaction between French and Islamic medical philosophies and approaches


Amster E. The “Syphilitic Arab”?:  A Search for Civilization in Disease Etiology, Native Prostitution, and French Colonial Medicine, in Patricia Lorcin and Todd Shepard (eds.), French Mediterraneans, (University of Nebraska Press, 2016).

Amster E. The body and the body politic: Medicine, public health, and healing as history in the modern Middle East and North Africa. International Journal of Middle East Studies (47:3): 563-565.

Amster E. Medicine and the saints:  Science, Islam, and the colonial encounter in Morocco, 1877-1956. (Austin:  University of Texas Press, 2013). 

Amster E. “The Mad Saint as Healer:  The Islamic Majnun in al-Kattani’s Salwat al-Anfas and in French colonial medicine and sociologie,” in Tinneke von Osselaer, Kaat Wils-Verhaegen, and Henk de Smaele (eds.), Sign or Symptom?  Exceptional Corporeal Phenomena in Medicine and Religion (19th and 20th century), (Leuven:  University of Leuven Press). Forthcoming.

Amster E. "Abd al-Salam" and "Adarraq," in Marc Gaborieau, Gudrun Krämer, John Nawas and Everett Rowson (eds), The Encyclopedia of Islam 3 (Leiden: Brill) 2013.

Amster E. “Rumor and Revolution:  Medicine, Technology, and Popular Politics in Pre-Protectorate Morocco, 1877-1912.” In ed. Driss Maghraoui, Revisiting the Colonial Past in Morocco, (London and New York:  Routledge). 2013.  87-111.

Amster E. “The harem revealed and the Islamic-French family: Aline de Lens and a Frenchwoman's orient in Lyautey’s Morocco.” French Historical Studies, Spring 2009 (32:2).

Amster E. “Saints and the Islamic City: Looking for sacred space in Fes, Morocco.” The Urban History Newsletter. 2006. 35: 1-3. 

Amster E. “The many deaths of Dr. Emile Mauchamp: Medicine, Ttechnology, and popular politics in pre-protectorate Morocco, 1877-1912.” International Journal of Middle East Studies. 2004.  36: 409-428.


  • History of public health
  • History of biomedicine in global context
  • Infant and maternal health in the Middle East and North Africa (Morocco)
  • French and Islamic medical philosophies and approaches
  • Islam and science
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