Heidi Kelley, Ph.D.

Professor of Anthropology

Contact Information

  • hkelley@unca.edu
  • 251-6980
  • 225 Zageir Hall

Office Hours

  • Monday 12:15 pm - 12:45 pm
  • Tuesday 3:45 pm - 4:45 pm
  • Wednesday 12:15 pm - 12:45 pm
  • Thursday 3:45 pm - 4:45 pm
  • Note: Or by appointment

I grew up in a village in Wisconsin. My college roommate thought it was funny that Mishicot (my hometown) didn’t have a single stoplight. My roommate also persuaded me to take my first  anthropology class, “Anthropological Perspectives on Women.” I hadn’t the faintest idea what anthropology was. I thought it had something to do with digging or studying exotic lands, nothing relevant to my life. I was so wrong! I discovered that anthropology has everything to do with understanding what it means to be human. I went on to major in anthropology and take my doctorate in anthropology too.

I returned to a village—Ezaro, in the north westernmost region of Spain, called Galicia--for my dissertation fieldwork about women’s identity. Originally interested in studying women and depression in the United States, I realized, after my second year of graduate school, I wanted the challenge of doing participant observation in another language. I choose to start studying Spanish and targeted Galicia (whose people speak Gallego, adding a new linguistic challenge) as the location for my first fieldwork. I have maintained an academic passion for Galicia, returning over the years for shorter periods of fieldwork and to visit old friends.

Then, in 1998 I had a life-changing event: I had a massive stroke. I thought my career as an anthropologist and teacher was over. But I realized, lying in my hospital bed soon after my stroke that I was still an anthropologist, still a teacher. Since then, I have used my anthropological insights to understand my new culture of stroke, with yet another language to master, the language of silence. Now I do fieldwork in the culture of stroke and disability, forging new friendships with stroke survivors and other people with disabilities in Asheville and across North Carolina. As well, I am increasingly turning to more humanistic writing techniques (like poetry) to communicate insights about my various field sites.

My scholarly interests are reflected in my teaching. I teach elective courses about gender (“Writing Gender,” “Intersections of Gender in the Americas”), disruption (“Disrupted Lives: The Anthropology of Social Suffering”), psychological anthropology (“Culture and the Individual”), Europe (“Borderlands of Identity in Spain and Portugal”), disability (“Body, Disability, and Culture”), and humanistic anthropology (“Storied Anthropology”).


  • Ph.D., University of Washington
  • M.A., University of Washington
  • B.A., Lawrence University

Courses Taught

  • ANTH100 Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
  • ANTH323 Storied Anthropology
  • ANTH339 Intersections of Gender in the Americas
  • ANTH350 Body, Culture, and Disability
  • ANTH353 Culture and the Individual
  • ANTH357 Disrupted Lives: The Anthropology of Social Suffering
  • ANTH361 Writing Gender
  • ANTH374 Borderlands of Identity in Spain and Portugal
  • ANTH/SOC 464 Social Narratives

Teaching and Research Interests

Cultural Anthropology, Disability Studies, Disruption and Social Suffering, Gender, European and Spanish Cultures, Humanistic Anthropology, Latin American and Latin@ Cultures, Psychological Anthropology