As a medical anthropologist, Claire Wendland focuses on the globalization of biomedicine, particularly in Africa. Related work includes the anthropology of reproduction, sexuality and the body. Her first book, A Heart for the Work: Journeys through an African Medical School, was published by the University of Chicago Press in 2010. That book explores the experiences of medical students learning to be doctors in Malawi, and argues that their responses challenge several longstanding assumptions about biomedicine and about African healing. Wendland’s research also looks at changing concepts and loci of risk in childbirth in southeast Africa, in a setting in which very high maternal mortality rates force professionals and lay people alike to develop explanations for the link between birth and death. She seeks to understand how the narratives of maternal death they produce reflect experiences of a rapidly changing social, economic, and biomedical context.
Wendland teaches an introductory course in medical anthropology, a graduate seminar in anthropology and international health, and various courses in the anthropology of Africa and in general cultural anthropology. She also has an interest in ethics and has taught both anthropological ethics and bioethics courses.