A dominant theme I focus on in my research is care and caregiving, particularly family caregiving. Families tend to absorb much of the labor of care for people who are sick, and yet much of this labor tends to be invisible, even when it occurs in hospitals, such as in my current study in a pediatric hospital in Zambia. It is most invisible in the household and I have spent years working on various projects to identify the household and social basis of care for people with TB, HIV, cancer, and asthma. One of the dominant contributions of my work on care is that I have shown that children play active roles in caring. Children do things within times and spaces characterized by illness: they nurture bodies and minds; they sustain relationships, upholding households and families under duress; they assist states struggling with gutted health-care systems. Their caregiving might even sustain global health policies and programs in ways yet unrecognized. But I have also shown that an overemphasis on children’s agency—understood as the active roles children take in the world—invites us to overstate children’s power, understate their vulnerability, and insufficiently problematize the constraints placed on children. Children are, in fact, agents, but they are not “super agents,” we are wise to remember. None of us are. In my work on children’s caregiving, I examine caring acts from their perspectives and experiences, which has led me to identify children’s agency in care and attend to how larger social and economic structures, that make children and their families vulnerable, shape their care.

Select funded research

PHRAME study

Select publications

Spray, J, Carter, C, Waters, EA, Hunleth, J. Not Breathing Easy: “Disarticulated Homework” in Asthma Management. Medical Anthropology Quarterly. In Press

Hunleth, J, Spray, J, Ruiz, S., Maki, J., Fedele, D. A., Prabhakaran, S., . . .Waters, E. Situating household management of children’s asthma in the context of social, economic, and environmental injustice. Journal of Asthma. 2020

Spray, J, Hunleth, J. Where Have All the Children Gone? Against Children’s Invisibility in the COVID-19 Pandemic. Anthropology Now. 2020; 12(2):39-52.

Hunleth J. Zambian Children’s Imaginal Caring: On Fantasy, Play, and Anticipation in an Epidemic. Cultural Anthropology. 2019;34(2).

Hunleth J. Children as Caregivers: The Global Fight against Tuberculosis and HIV in Zambia. Newark, Rutgers University Press 2017.

Hunleth J. Children’s roles in tuberculosis treatment regimes: constructing childhood and kinship in urban Zambia. Med Anthropol Q. 2013;27(2):292-311. PMCID:PMC3707965 PMID:23804398 (Awarded the 2014 Steven Polgar award from the Society for Medical Anthropology for its originality, theoretical importance, and methodology)

Select media on my caregiving work

Drawing Care with Jean Hunleth- https://culanth.org/fieldsights/drawing-care-with-jean-hunleth

Podcast interview for Anthropod:Children’s Carework in a Global Pandemic: Anthropology of Childhood and Infectious Disease | Society for Cultural Anthropology (culanth.org)