Skip to main content
Skip to main menu


Jennifer Jo Thompson

UGA Arch
Adjunct Instructor



Ph.D. Medical/Sociocultural Anthropology, University of Arizona 2010

M.A. Folklore, Indiana University 2000

B.A. Anthropology, University of Michigan 1996


Research Interests

Areas of Expertise: Public engagement with science. Human health and the environment. Science education. Qualitative research methods.

My research focuses on societal concerns at the intersection of agriculture and environmental sciences and health. I employ ethnographic and mixed-methods—including participant observation, interviews, focus groups, and surveys, and systematic content analysis and network analysis—to study individual, community, and societal perceptions of risk, understanding of and engagement with science, and trust in scientific and lay expertise.

I explore this interaction in projects addressing how the public and health care providers navigate shifting scientific knowledge and how people perceive the risks and benefits of health-related interventions (e.g., use of pharmaceuticals vs. “natural” health products). Public debates around issues such as sustainable agriculture, genetically modified crops, biofuel production, and water and land use are natural extensions of my current work. Yet, these debates are more frequently negotiated through practice—on the basis of people’s day-to-day decisions made within a social environment. Nowhere is this more true than in the decisions people make about what to eat (e.g., organic vs. local vs. sustainable vs. conventional). Along these lines, I am developing research examining the farm-to-school movement and how school meals influence children’s and families’ dietary preferences and practices and, ultimately, health.


Selected Publications

Submitted: Thompson, JJ, E Conaway, and EL Dolan. Undergraduate Students’ Development of Social, Cultural, and Human Capital in a Networked Research Experience. Cultural Studies of Science Education.

Submitted: Thompson, JJ, and M Nichter. Is There a Role for Complementary & Alternative Medicine in Preventive and Promotive Health? An Anthropological Assessment in the Context of U.S. Health Reform. Medical Anthropology Quarterly.

In press: Horton, S, C Abadia, J Mulligan and JJ Thompson. CAGH “Take A Stand” Statement: Health Insurance Reform. Medical Anthropology Quarterly.

2011 Thompson, JJ, K Kelly, C Ritenbaugh, A Hopkins, C Sims, and SJ Coons. Developing a Patient-Centered Outcome Measure for Complementary and Alternative Medicine Therapies II: Demonstrating Content Validity through Cognitive Interviews. BMC Complement Altern Med. 11(136).

2009 Thompson, JJ, C Ritenbaugh, and M Nichter. Reconsidering the Placebo Response from a Broad Anthropological Perspective. Cult Med Psych 33(1):112-52.

2007 Thompson, JJ, and M Nichter. The Compliance Paradox: What we need to know about "real world" dietary supplement use in the United States. Alt Ther Health Med 13(2):48-55.

2007 Nichter, Mimi, Mark Nichter, M Muramoto, S Adrian, K Goldade, L Tesler and JJ Thompson. Smoking among low income pregnant women: An ethnographic analysis. Health Education & Behavior 34(5):748-764.

2006 Nichter, M, and JJ Thompson. For my wellness, not just my illness: North Americans’ Use of Dietary Supplements. Cult Med Psych 30(2):175-222.

Support Anthropology at UGA

Your support helps bring in speakers of note, provides student research funding, assists in student fieldwork and conference travel, and creates new resources to further enrich each learner's experience. Learn more about how you can support the Department of Anthropology.

Every dollar given has a direct impact upon our students and faculty.